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Cross-border shopping: 'I save €100-€130 every time I travel'

SHOPPERS from the Republic account for half the weekly 45,000 transactions at a single supermarket across the border.

Last Tuesday, when public-sector workers went on strike, trade doubled in places like the Foyleside Shopping Centre in Derry, where almost 30pc of cars were from the Republic.

But even without that boost, stores in border towns from Newry in the east to Strabane in the west have been enjoying a steady rise in cross-border business.

Retail analysts at the University of Ulster predict that by the end of 2009 the loss of revenue to the Irish economy could exceed €1bn. This is higher than the Government estimate of €810m and €3.6m more than in 2008.

Nowhere is the unstoppable trend more evident than in the spanking new 52,000sq ft of retail space occupied by Asda in Strabane, just across the border from Lifford in Co Donegal.

On Friday evening, the 28 tills were ringing to the sound of euros, which have helped make it the second most successful Asda store in Northern Ireland, after Enniskillen.

"We are clocking up 45,000 transactions a week and 50pc of that at least is coming from the Republic, mainly Donegal. A two-hour drive to get here is quite common," said manager Eugene Teague. "People maintain they can save 30pc by shopping here, with the main items of interest being alcohol and baby products," he said.

Rebecca McFadden, a mother of four, travels the 160km round-trip to Strabane regularly from her home in Falcarragh on the north Donegal coast.


"I do most of my shopping here because it is so much cheaper. I probably save between €100 and €130 on each shopping trip. Fifty euro would hardly get me bread and milk and a few bits and pieces in my local shop but here, I have a full trolley, including all the Christmas drink, and it cost me €140," she said.

Deputy Mayor of Letterkenny, Jimmy Harte said that retailers in Co Donegal were suffering badly.

"Any shop that is trying to trade through Christmas at the moment must be dreading January. There are going to be a lot of retailers out of business in the New Year," he said.

"We should be looking towards a single currency on the island but in the meantime we just have to weather the storm."

In southwest Donegal, chambers of commerce across nine towns and villages have launched a voucher scheme in a bid to keep shoppers closer to home.

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