Wednesday 22 November 2017

'We’re stocking up in massive quantities' - Northern stores brace themselves for influx of Republic shoppers

Northern shops experience 'significant double-digit growth' as Border retailers could be 'decimated'

Some shops experiencing 'significant double-digit growth' as road traffic north 'surges'
Some shops experiencing 'significant double-digit growth' as road traffic north 'surges'
Many shoppers are making the trip north in the run-up to Christmas (Stock picture)

Amy Molloy and Colm Kelpie

Outlets and shops north of the border have experienced a “significant double-digit growth” in trade since Brexit, Independent.ie has learned.

Growth looks set to continue, with the sterling falling sharp against the euro meaning shoppers can get much better value in the northern aisles.

However, a Chamber of Commerce figure has warned that Border shops could be "decimated" as a result.

Currently, one British pound will get you 1.15 euro.

And with Christmas just around the corner, some outlets, off-licences and shopping centres are stocking up.

“Since Brexit, we have seen a significant double-digit growth due to the sudden influx of customers coming up from across the border,” says Chris Nelmes, Centre Manager of The OUTLET in Banbridge, Co. Down.

Many shoppers are making the trip north in the run-up to Christmas (Stock picture)
Many shoppers are making the trip north in the run-up to Christmas (Stock picture)

“Coming up to Christmas, we are extending our trading hours. For the first time ever, we will be trading every night until 9pm during the Christmas period,” Mr Nelmes told Independent.ie.

“We have the benefit of being an outlet so prices are reduced, plus we are getting the euro advantage on top of that, so it is a double whammy for the outlet in terms of value for money.”

Along with outlets, off-licences are too increasing their stock as people travel north to avail of the cheaper alcohol prices.

“Oh yeah, we’re certainly stocking up in massive quantities,” Siofra Hannaway, manager of First and Last off-licence in Newry told Independent.ie.

“We’ve seen it busy in previous years, but compared to last year it is a lot busier. At Christmas time there are a lot of offers too, so people are buying more brands, such as Powers, Absolut, Hennessy and Jameson.”

A box of 20 Coors Light 330cl beers costs €24 in Tesco in the Republic, but £13 (€14.50) in a Tesco up the north.

However, some shoppers argue that it’s not as cost-saving as some people think.

“It’s not worth it just for a bit of drink. Again you pay for fuel, two tolls and then what you would spend up there on top of it,” one woman told Independent.ie.

For parents, it may be worth the trip for the Christmas toy run.

A Lego City Volcano Exploration base set will cost you €75 from a Smyths store in Dublin, but £55 (€61) from Smyths in Newry - a €14 saving.

You can get a Paw Patrol bike for €87.99 in Smyths in Dublin, and £71.99 (€82) from Smyths in Newry – a €6 saving.

Traffic

Road traffic data has shown a "surge" in Saturday morning shoppers travelling to Northern Ireland from the Republic since the Brexit vote, BBC reports.

The data shows that south-to-north traffic flows from 10am-11am on Saturday mornings are up from 3pc year-on-year before the vote, to 29pc year-on-year afterwards.

Ireland's National Roads Authority reported the largest increase in the opposite direction to be between 6pm-7pm on a Sunday.

Meanwhile, Brexit has also had a positive impact on the hotel industry in Belfast, which has seen a steady increase in tourists visiting for weekends away.

“Brexit’s impact on the devaluation of the pound has definitely acted as a catalyst for our positive growth, but we also believe the influx has started due to the recent recognition of Belfast as a great destination,” says James Sinton, Financial Director of Beannchor.

Beannchor operates two city centre hotels in Belfast, the newly developed Bullitt and the Merchant Hotel.

“In terms of occupancy, we are hitting the 90pc mark,” Mr Sinton told Independent.ie.

'Decimated'

In the Republic, a leading figure in the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, said retailers in Border areas will be "decimated" if sterling weakens further.

Paddy Malone, chamber PRO, told TDs and Senators that the Government needs to consider measures to help firms operating in the area. He said more than 40pc of commercial rates in the Dundalk area haven't been collected "for years".

"The retail sector will be decimated if sterling drops. If sterling goes to 92p or 93p [against the euro] it will be decimated. We've faced this problem before. We will face it again. But this one is different," he said.

Ibec's Arnold Dillion said the Brexit vote has put jobs at risk.

John McGrane of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce said the speed of the decline in sterling has presented significant challenges.

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