The boom is back! Meet the Irish shoppers jetting to New York for last minute Christmas buys
After several years hiatus, Irish shoppers are returning 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, Uggs, Levis and Michael Kors.
Items are further reduced after Thanksgiving and bigger bargains are prevalent in the run up to Christmas. Daily shuttles leave Penn Station and several of the Midtown hotels every morning to make the hour and ten minute pilgrimage to one of the largest malls in America.
A strong dollar means exchange rates aren’t as advantageous as previous years but it doesn’t stop droves of Irish people arriving into Woodbury each morning. Independent.ie went to Woodbury to see if the transatlantic shopping trip was worth it.
(L to R) Paula, Sharon, Martha, Judy and Eileen from Clare
Trading the roads of Clare for the sidewalks of NYC, these ladies usually hang out as part of a walking group in their home of Newmarket. Friends Paula, Sharon, Martha, Judy and Eileen are in New York for five nights. They’re already on their second visit to Woodbury and third to an outlet, after a quick smash and grab in Jersey Gardens in New Jersey.
Despite two full days of shopping, the gang have "way more to do" back in Ireland before they can check off their Christmas lists. Paula says, "We'e’re all about shopping local, so we’re not going to spend everything over here!" Less enthused by the mall than her counterparts, Sharon insists they’re wrapping up their time in Woodbury and heading back into the city soon. "We’re done with the shops! Cocktails tonight and cocktails tomorrow.”
Are they spending more this year, than recent Christmases? "Yes, yes, definitely.”"
Rikki-Lee Jameson and Connie Jameson
Mum and daughter Connie and Rikki-Lee were amongst the first droves of shoppers through the door on Monday morning. 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."
(L to R) Roisin Daly, Sean Pembroke, Darren McAnallen, Clare Daly
Despite some joking about searching for diamonds by the boys, 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 will be "on the credit card", jokes Roisin.
Although they admit they’ll be totting up the exchange rate as they go, "it’s still cheaper than home for these kinds of shops."
Gavin Stokes and Ciara Sheehy from Tallaght
Between ice-skating at Rockefeller Center and scaling the Empire State Building, Gavin and Ciara made the trek to Woodbury although Ciara admits it’s "quite far to come" for a shopping excursion. The couple have been saving up for some time for the trip and Gavin’s "just going to buy everything" with his $2,000 budget.
"It’s not our budget," Ciara insists, "it’s what we have." Hugo Boss is the first port of call, in the search for a suit for a wedding.
Serena Judd, Bairbre Brennan and Christine Lee
Friends Serena Judd, Bairbre Brennan and Christine Lee from Blanchardstown are having a breather outside North Face. Laden down with bags, the gang are on the first day of their New York jolly and jet lag 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.
Although Bairbre says "it went down, we should have got it before."
"It’s nearly dollar for euro, so you watch it a bit more," says Serena. The big splurge so far has been a Michael Kors bag and some of the biggest savings has been on Ugg Boots. The "kids are nearly done" so the plan for the rest of the week is dinner, sightseeing and a few drinks.
So is this a big splash out for the friends? No says Christine. "We’re just doing the Christmas shopping here that we’d be doing at home."
Tracy O'Keefe and Sarah Moore
From the other side of the city, Tracy O’Keefe and Sarah Moore say even with the strong dollar, Woodbury is "still cheaper" than shopping in Dublin.
The pair from Ballyfermot are shopping for a mix of adults and kids. Will the Christmas shopping be finished when they get back to Dublin on Sunday? "It better be," laughs Tracy.
With a suitcase full of gifts, Tracy says they couldn’t have afforded to come in recent years but if they had the cash, it would be an annual excursion. The value is definitely worth the transatlantic haul. "We’re robbed at home," Tracy said.
Big buys were in North Face and Tommy Hilfiger but there’s still time to fill more of the suitcase before heading into the city on the bus at 6pm.
Debbie and Stephen Murray
Arriving with a "list in our heads" Debbie and Stephen Murray are bracing the New York cold for a change. The pair usually head to Florida at this time of year, but the arrival of a baby girl at home in County Down meant they didn’t want to travel so far. The exchange rate has been putting the squeeze on spending "the last couple of years it has been really bad."
Like most of the Irish shopping at Woodbury, a North Face coat was today’s big splurge. But all the pieces they picked up are a lot cheaper, they say. "The likes of GAP and stuff is a lot cheaper here than at home."
Miley Dunning and Joyce Veld
Unlike most of the Irish shoppers on a supermarket sweep dashing between stores with suitcases in tow, Miley Dunning is lounging on a bench waiting for his wife Joyce. A farrier and a horse dentist, the pair married last year but postponed the trip to NYC until this Christmas. They’ve picked up one or two things, but the major shop will happen at home when they get back to Athlone.
"I got a few bits for family but I didn’t want the stress of doing Christmas shopping over here," Joyce says, "you’re over here for a holiday." Is there good value, even with the strong dollar? "I don’t really know because it’s going on to the card," Joyce laughs.
According to Michael, it’s a different atmosphere to Irish shopping, "It’s kind of laid back. It’s not like shopping in Ireland. You’re not stuck in a shopping centre for six hours, chasing, carrying the bags around the place. You can wander around, sit down for an hour and off they go." It’s the end of the holiday for these guys, who are going home to meet a new niece.
Apart from shopping they saw the Lion King, Rockefeller Center and "every Irish bar that we could see."
(L to R) Alison Duncan and Alison Palmer
Landing in NYC on Thursday afternoon, Woodbury was the first port of call for Alison and Alison, so they could "spend all the money and see what you have left!" On the list: Christmas presents, a few treats, trainers and some new gear to wear out in Manhattan over the next few days. Who told them about the outlet mall in Derry?
"I think everybody just knows it. If you want to go shopping, you go to Woodbury."