Bumper border savings: Why shoppers are being tempted North
Greg Harkin heads across the Border where the aisles are already filling up with shoppers from the south
Published 10/10/2016 | 02:30
For the first time in years this week, car parks in towns such as Derry and Newry are filling up with shoppers from south of the Border, seeking to make large savings on a range of goods.
From cars to computers and coats to cots, the rise of the euro against Sterling is already sending shockwaves through businesses and their employees in the Republic.
For everyone from hard-pressed families looking for an early Christmas bargain to couples on weekend shopping breaks, it's been six years since they've had it so good.
And our survey of UK-owned retail stores with branches on both sides of the Border shows just how much can be saved.
With some analysts predicting parity between the two currencies over the next few months, the shocks caused by Brexit are starting to hit communities in the Republic.
Even in a retailer like Halfords, with a solid reputation for almost price-matching items either side of the frontier, the sterling slide is starting to show.
A Boardman MX Comp bike in its RoI stores sells for €711 while it's €676.88 in the North, a saving of €34.12.
There are similar savings across all bikes in that range, however a more expensive Boardman Hybrid Team bike can be bought for €75 cheaper - a saving of 10pc.
Other items in Halfords are now significantly cheaper, with a €54.13 saving on a Karcher pressure washer.
A Halfords spokesperson said: "We work hard to offer our Irish customers fair and transparent pricing. Many factors impact the price of our products in the Republic of Ireland including transportation, VAT and excise, commercial rents and energy charges. We constantly monitor currency fluctuations to ensure our prices are consistent and fair throughout the year."
A range of toys are also cheaper in Northern branches of Smyths - thanks mainly to the exchange rate.
The popular Xbox One S 1TB with FIFA bundle, which sells in its southern shops for €379.99 is the equivalent of €338.99 in the North, a saving of €41.
However, the PlayStation 4 Slim with FIFA bundle is just four euro cheaper in the North.
Other items which will be popular on Santa lists this year were also cheaper.
A 13-ft trampoline with enclosure is €46.60 cheaper, there is a €13.50 saving on the Barbie Malibu Mall with dolls, and a €9.80 saving on a popular Nikko remote control car.
You can save €24 on a Kettler go-kart and the same saving on a Star Wars Lego set. A customer buying all these goods priced by us at Smyths would save €162.90 in the North.
Meanwhile, a selection of clothes at Topshop were all considerably cheaper in their Northern stores - particularly the shop's designer range.
A Mixed Print Funnel Dress by Boutique cost €180 in the south but €146.90 in the North.
And its Ultimate Biker Jacket in the same designer range will set you back €360 south of the border but €276.85 in the North, a saving of €83.15.
Many Marks & Spencer's items were also much cheaper in the North, although the company did ditch its £1 to €1.50 pricing base several years ago.
A tailored men's suit in its Belfast store will cost you €203.40 - the same suit in Dublin will cost you €270.
A pair of leather brogues are also more than €20 cheaper in the North; making a suit-and-shoes purchase on these items €88.23 cheaper in the North.
An M&S spokeswoman said: "We work hard to ensure we offer our customers in Ireland great quality products that are competitively priced. Like any business, we have to take into consideration a number of factors specific to the Irish market when setting our prices, such as higher employment, rental and operational costs."
Department store Debenhams also charges much less across a range of goods including its Phase Eight Abigail Dress (€71.43 cheaper); Butterfly by Matthew Williamson Nude Imani embellished evening dress (€28.86 cheaper) and John Rocha Vintage Brooke jeans (€14.80).
A spokeswoman said: "Debenhams operates a number of individual websites which are tailored to local markets and include local sizing and local currency payment. Prices of products sold in markets outside of the UK are not a direct currency conversion and reflective of the operational costs and overheads, such as VAT involved in trading in additional regions."
Furniture retail giant DFS is known for its sales and its bargains, but with the slide of sterling, prices in the North are even more competitive.
Customers from Donegal visiting its store in Derry's Waterside are even offered free delivery. Buying a Loch Leven traditional sofa can give you a saving of €566.13 over buying the same sofa in Dublin.
A DFS spokeswoman said: "Our prices are set well in advance and so it isn't feasible for us to change our prices with every exchange rate fluctuation.
"It should also be noted that our shipping and transportation costs to Ireland are higher and our in-country overheads haven't changed - we pay salaries, rents and local transport costs in euro.
"However, we do review prices on a regular basis and at the moment we are waiting to see how the exchange rate settles post Brexit."
Currys PC World also operates on either side of the border and has, in recent years, kept prices as close as possible.
But that is changing now too. An 9.7" iPad Pro 32GB is €78.63 cheaper in its Derry shop.
We did find an American-style fridge €17 more expensive in the North but when it came to luxury TVs, they are still much cheaper in the south.
Meanwhile, Argos catalogues issued are almost identical - except for the higher prices in its southern version.
Argos said it strives to be the best value general merchandise retailer and is committed to offering choice, value and convenience to all our customers.
A spokeswoman said: "We constantly review and adjust our prices throughout the life of a catalogue to ensure we continue to offer competitive pricing and promotions throughout the year.
"However, unlike many of our competitors we have to publish prices in the catalogue which will last for the full six months lifespan of the catalogue."