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Smart Consumer: We're buying Irish this festive season

Irish consumers are being warned that money spent on foreign goods this Christmas is "effectively a down payment" on a return ticket to Australia to visit children or grandchildren.

Mark Fielding, chief executive of Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME) issued the stark message in the wake of this week's Budget, which places further pressure on Irish businesses with a reduction in employers' rebate for laid-off staff and a 2% VAT increase.

"Jobs are on the line here so the more we can get people to purchase quality Irish products, the better," he told the Irish Independent. Recession or not, Irish consumers are still set to spend an average of €943 this Christmas, down from €1020 in 2010 and by 30% since the boom years. Of this, an estimated €258 will be spent on food.

The message from ISME is simple. Shopping locally and buying quality Irish products will stimulate local enterprises and local economies. Independent market research suggests that for every €10 spent locally, an additional €24 is generated for the benefit of the local economy, while buying Irish will help secure Irish jobs in manufacturing, production and retail.

"Not only are you doing a service to the local business community but you are doing a service to yourself. For every pound that you spend across the Border or on foreign goods, you are putting a down payment on a return ticket to Australia or Canada to see your children or grandchildren and that is the reality of what is happening at the moment," said Mr Fielding.

The Guaranteed Irish 'Shop for Ireland' campaign, which will run until January 6, is also urging shoppers to look for Irish substitutes in gifts, food, clothes and services.

At its launch, executive director, Tom Rea, said consumers would be surprised at the range of quality Irish goods out there at competitive prices.

Irish manufacturers, designers and retailers face the challenge of persuading a discerning public that what they have to offer represents quality and value for money.

Last weekend, the biggest annual showcase of craft workers and designers drew thousands of visitors to the RDS for the National Crafts and Design Fair. But across the country between now and Christmas, pop-up emporiums, and Christmas fairs and markets will present a dazzling range of handmade Irish goods to suit all tastes and budgets.

Head of Market Development at the Crafts Council of Ireland Brian McGee revealed that 5,770 jobs would be sustained in the craft sector if every household spent just €10 on Irish crafts.

"There are beautiful gifts available from as little as €5 so there is something to cater for every budget.

"By buying authentic Irish craft, you are sharing the wonderful story about the product and supporting the craftsperson, who has dedicated his or her time and skill to creating a gift with meaning," he said.All of these gifts are available from giveirishcraft.com or at stockists including The Kilkenny Group, Arnotts and House of Fraser in the Dundrum Shopping Centre. Closer to home for the McElgunns, The Louth Craft Mark and Milmount Design Centre, both in Drogheda, Co Louth, and the Leitrim Design House in Carrick on Shannon Co Leitirm, also stock the crafts.

Irish Independent