Northbound shoppers 'don't feel one bit unpatriotic'
"RAISING the VAT rate to 23pc is going to be a total disaster for retailers and consumers in the south".
This view, expressed by Kildare woman Catherine Velleman, who travelled to Newry, Co Down, to shop yesterday was echoed by scores of other shoppers from the south heading north for bargains.
Couples and families from as far away as Cork filled the aisles of Sainsbury's and poured out into the parking lots with trolleys full of goods.
Trade was brisk and parking spaces hard to find amongst the hundreds of southern-registered cars outside The Quays Shopping Centre in Newry.
"We're being ripped off left, right and centre in the south and I don't feel one bit unpatriotic about coming up here to shop," said Ms Velleman.
"Things are tight all round so you have to find the best value you can where you can," she said.
Celebrity chef Neven Maguire said raising VAT to 23pc was "shooting ourselves in the foot" and would lead to more shoppers going across the Border to the North.
"I don't think it will help anybody -- not the consumers who will have to pay more, not the shops that are struggling and it's the last thing we need with incomes already being affected," he said at the Louth Taste of Food Festival.
"I'll buy what I can down south but if there's a huge price difference, I'll definitely travel," said Lisa Earle, who came to Newry from Dublin with her mother, Marlene, to shop at Sainsbury's.
In Dundalk, trade is noticeably slower and retailers are angry at the prospect of a VAT rise.
"The Government doesn't care about what we're getting by on, once they get their extra 2pc," said Niall Callan of Callan's Off Licence.
"We'll have to further swallow margins to keep prices competitive," he said.
"But we'll also have to pass on a certain amount of the 2pc hike, it would be impossible to absorb that into current margins."