Friday 19 January 2018

Number of shoppers going north plummets

Aideen Sheehan

CROSS-border shopping has plummeted in popularity with over a third of shoppers who used to travel north to stock up no longer doing so.

A new survey shows 35pc of self-declared "cross-border shoppers" have not travelled north to stock up this year as the price gap between Northern Ireland and the Republic narrowed.

And 45pc said that less favourable exchange rates this year as the euro weakened against sterling would dissuade them from shopping in the North.

The online survey of 500 consumers was carried out by Empathy Research and published in the Retail Intelligence online newsletter.

It came as new inflation figures out yesterday showed UK prices are still rising at 3.1pc a year despite repeated attempts to curb inflation, whereas Ireland has had the biggest price falls in the European Union in the last year, averaging -2.4pc over the last 12 months, according to Eurostat.

General reductions in food prices as well as VAT changes and excise cuts in the Republic have also narrowed the price gap, and the UK VAT rate is set to be hiked further next January.

However, the euro's steep fall against sterling, with €1 now worth just 82p compared to 92p last year, is probably the main factor as it has meant a significant reduction in what southern shoppers can get for their money.

Southern-registered cars still accounted for 45pc of all those seen in carparks in the main cross-border destinations of Newry, Enniskillen, Strabane and Banbridge, in the latest survey carried out last month by Intertrade Ireland, an all-Ireland trade promotion body.

That is down from 55pc at the start of the year, and down from a peak of around two-thirds at the height of the cross-border shopping phenomenon in late 2008, early 2009, said Intertrade director of research Eoin Magennis.


"Overall cross-border shopping is down about 20pc since its peak. I think the exchange rate is key, but there are a number of factors including the changing VAT rates," he said.

All of that contributed to a greater feel-good factor among consumers in the Republic, which meant some were no longer travelling north, but the pre-Christmas period would be key to seeing if there really had been a shift as that had traditionally been the busiest time for travelling north.

Some Northern retailers also reported that people were travelling less, but buying more, when they crossed the Border.

The survey found that 42pc of respondents had shopped in Northern Ireland in the last 12 months and this rose to 55pc in Dublin. While two-thirds of these had made the trip this year, the remainder had not.

Irish Independent

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