Business Irish

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Donegal ace pounds old foe as shoppers cash in on cheap euro

Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

Donegal footballer Michael Murphy in his sports shop in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Donegal footballer Michael Murphy in his sports shop in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

As a fearless and imposing full forward, Donegal All-Ireland- winning marksman Michael Murphy often struggled to get any change out of the tight-as- tuppence Tyrone full back line.

Now GAA players from across the border in Mickey Harte country are dropping pound notes into Murphy's hands.

His sports shop, in Letterkenny, 'Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure', is one of the many border businesses reaping a rich dividend from the exchange rate, which means northern shoppers are gaining a 20 to 25pc bonus when they come south.

And it means that there will be another northern invasion in the next six weeks, as workers in the North hold their Christmas parties south of the border to get better value.

In the past six months, retailers, particularly in counties along the border, have seen a rise in northern car registrations and sterling use at shopping outlets.

Shop owners' hopes of a bumper Christmas in the sector are on the rise for the first time since the recession began.

Thomas Burke, Director of Retail Ireland, said: "There is certainly evidence that it's starting to happen to some degree. It's not widespread by any means just yet.

"We're on the cusp of a crucial Christmas period, so potentially we will see an increase. With the currency at the moment there is the opportunity that more people will come south to do their Christmas shopping, so we'd be hopeful that it will be a good Christmas on the back of that," he said.

"The further south you come the less obvious it is but that's natural with the currency situation," he said.

In recent years, southern shoppers - particularly from Donegal, Cavan, Louth, Monaghan and Leitrim - regularly travelled to Enniskillen, Belfast and Newry for cheap food, alcohol, clothes and toys.

Now the traffic is the other way around. Household goods, textiles, groceries, fuel and "big ticket" items are where northern shoppers see the biggest savings.

"It's all at the mercy of the exchange rate, it's very much driven by that 20-25pc devaluation in the euro over the last 18 months," said Mr Burke.

Retail Ireland says it is "cautiously optimistic" about the Christmas period.

However, figures are still a long way off boom-time sales.

Retailers are also continuing to offer heavy discounts on products.

Toni Forrester, CEO of Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce, said the town is "definitely" experiencing a surge in northern shoppers.

"We would hear that our hotels are getting northern Christmas party bookings and people are buying petrol here, so it's having a real knock-on effect after such a tough trading period over seven years," she said.

Mr Murphy is also experiencing a strong upsurge in Ulster customers at his Letterkenny sports store.

"We're seeing a lot more, without a doubt, coming through the doors even during the summer when people were on holidays, and I expect we'll see a lot more now at the start of the Christmas season," he said.

"We're in close proximity to the border here, so we're getting a strong flow coming down from Tyrone and Derry," he said.

Harry Traynor, manager of Marshes shopping centre in Dundalk, Co Louth, said retailers were enjoying a "very positive trend upwards" since early this year and are receiving strong customer feedback.

Sunday Independent

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