It's not like shopping at home: Irish grab empty cases for NY bargains
Irish shoppers are heading to New York in their thousands with empty suitcases to stock up for Christmas.
The flow of festive bargain hunters, in search of that cut-rate designer handbag or discounted boots, ebbed since 2007, but it's back with a bang.
For holiday-makers it's a chance to sightsee, ice-skate, nab a deal and celebrate your Fendi find over a Manhattan, in Manhattan.
For bigger discounts, the Irish have long looked beyond Herald Square and Soho to the Woodbury Common Outlet Mall - a vast outdoor shopping centre, with its own food court, Shake Shack and 220 stores, including Prada, Dior, Tommy Hilfiger, GAP, Ugg, Levi's and Michael Kors.
Items are further reduced after Thanksgiving and bigger bargains are prevalent in the run-up to Christmas.
A strong dollar means exchange rates aren't as advantageous as previous years - but it hasn't stopped droves of Irish arriving into Woodbury each morning.
Mother and daughter Connie and Rikki-Lee Jameson were amongst the first droves of shoppers through the door. Part of a big group of family and friends from Belfast, they also maintained they'd be on the last bus back into NYC that night.
They came prepared with empty cases for their wares. For Connie, shopping for two children at home was the aim, but Rikki-Lee was in the market for a Christmas treat. "A handbag, something designer. I'm probably not going to get the chance again," she said.
Sisters Clare and Roisin Daly were set for a serious afternoon of retail therapy. Booked six weeks ago, the trip was a last minute impulse and today's purchases would be "on the credit card" Roisin said.
Although they admitted they'd be totting up the exchange rate as they went, "it's still cheaper than home for these kinds of shops".
Meanwhile, Gavin Stokes and Ciara Sheehy from Tallaght admitted it was "quite far to come" for a shopping excursion. The couple had been saving up for some time for the trip and Gavin was "just going to buy everything" with his $2,000 budget.
Hugo Boss was the first port of call, in search of a suit for a wedding.
Friends Serena Judd, Bairbre Brennan and Christine Lee from Blanchardstown were having a breather outside North Face.
Laden down with bags, the gang were on the first day of their New York jolly and jetlag couldn't keep them away from Woodbury. More currency conscious than some of their Irish shopping counterparts, the group held tight on changing money until after the election.
"It's nearly dollar for euro, so you watch it a bit more," Serena said. The big splurge so far had been a Michael Kors bag and some of the biggest savings had been on Ugg boots.
So was this a big splash out? No, Christine said. "We're just doing the Christmas shopping here that we'd be doing at home."
Meanwhile, Tracy O'Keefe and Sarah Moore said even with the strong dollar, Woodbury was "still cheaper" than shopping in Dublin.
The pair from Ballyfermot were shopping for a mix of adults and kids. Would the Christmas shopping be finished when they got back to Dublin on Sunday? "It better be," Tracy said.
Big buys were in North Face and Tommy Hilfiger, but there was still time to fill more of the suitcase before heading into the city on the bus at 6pm.