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Savvy shoppers flock north to save 50pc by cashing in on weak sterling

Sunday Independent, 17 July 2016

South of the border shoppers who travel north can save up to 50pc on selected items in their weekly groceries bill.

As the Brexit debate continues, the gap between the pound and the euro has widened significantly in recent weeks. Yesterday, the euro was trading at 83p against sterling. But retailers in Northern Ireland said the latest trek north is “more a trickle than a flow” and there has been no major exodus from major population centres like Dublin. However, increased numbers of those living relatively close to the border are travelling to towns like Newry and Banbridge, for routine purchases such as food and alcohol.

A comparison between Tesco prices in Dublin and Banbridge show a range of items cheaper in the north. Retailers in the north are hoping the new currency gap will entice consumers from further afield, to make more big-ticket purchases such as electronics and furniture. A number of outlets in Newry and Banbridge currently have posters in their shop windows stating the exchange rate they have on offer for the Euro against sterling. Roisin Rooney, who works for The Flower Barrow outlet in The Quays shopping centre in Newry, confirmed increased interest from the South in recent days. “Shoppers can definitely get better value. Their money goes much further. Let’s hope it continues,” she said. 2 Meanwhile, Sinead McKernan, manager in the Chapelle jewellery store in The Outlet, Banbridge, also reported a modest growth in footfall brought about by crossborder shoppers. “It’s definitely worth their while for people to travel north because everything works out cheaper. “There has definitely been an increase in numbers over the past couple of weeks, but it’s still not like it used to be,” she told the Sunday Independent. She said competitive pricing for items like diamonds and jewellery would always be a particular draw. Gordon Thomson, manager of Savoy Tailors Guild, said the gap in the two currencies is definitely attracting more customers from the Republic. And Jimmy Nevin from the Naul, County Dublin, who made the journey northwards, commented: “To make this whole thing worthwhile you really need to buy in bulk.”

Traditionally grocery prices in the North have been significantly cheaper than those in the Republic. A comparison of some Tesco prices this week confirmed the continuing gap between North and South. For example, Kellogg’s Special K in the North costs (EURO)3.58, and in the South costs (EURO)6.49. Ritz crackers in the North were priced at (EURO)1.19 compared with (EURO)2 in the Republic. Kettle Chips would set you back (EURO)2.37 in Northern Ireland compared with (EURO)2.49 in the South. Fairy Liquid costs (EURO)1.19 up North, compared to (EURO)2.19 in the Republic.

Back in 2009 shoppers from the Republic flocked to Northern Ireland when at one stage the euro neared parity with sterling. That outflow of business caused major problems for retailers in border towns such as Dundalk.

A recent survey from Irish Revenue and Customs chiefs indicates the cost of alcohol and tobacco has climbed in the South over the past year, while the price of identical products in Northern Ireland has fallen. However, the cost of petrol, diesel, and home heating fuel had declined significantly on both sides of the border, following a drop in international oil prices.

Over the past year the price of a bottle of vodka in Dublin was unchanged at an average of (EURO)20, while in Newry it fell from £13.48 to £13.03. The only change in excise or duty over the past year was a 50c increase on a pack of 20 cigarettes in the Republic. But despite the fallout from Brexit, so far there has been no major consumer hit to border towns such as Dundalk.  Paddy Malone of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce says business in the town hasn’t been massively impacted by the Brexit vote last month: “It’s not like 2010 and 2011 when it was absolutely catastrophic for us. It’s nothing as bad as that.”

Sunday Independent