Shoppers flocking to border towns to cash in on weak sterling rate

Cross border shoppers have been flocking to the Quays Shopping Centre in Newry to pick up a bargain. Picture by Mal McCann 
Suzanne McGonagle and Seamus McKinney

THOUSANDS of southern shoppers are flocking to border towns to cash in on the strength of the euro against the pound.

The weak sterling rate has helped to lure shoppers to border areas such as Newry and Derry, which have been enjoying a bumper border bonanza in recent days.

Traders in border cities and towns said they had seen a surge in business over the weekend after the value of the pound plunged at the end of last week, adding to benefits already being reaped by a post-Brexit increase in cross-border retail.

On Tuesday, the value of sterling sat at €1.11 against the euro, making a euro worth 90p.

Bargain hunters have been thronging retail outlets such as the Buttercrane and Quays shopping centres in Newry, looking to make savings on a range of goods.

Buttercrane manager Peter Murray said the decline of the pound since the EU Brexit referendum was having a significant effect with the number of shoppers from the Republic increasing by around 30 per cent since the weekend alone.

"We have had a bit of a spike in the last few days, which comes after an increase in trade following the EU referendum," he said.

"We had been seeing a leakage from Northern Ireland to the south, but that has stopped essentially, that tap has been turned off and the road to the north is open again.

"We monitor the number of cars with Republic of Ireland registrations as a way of gauging how many shoppers are coming from the south.

"Over July and August, we have had an increase of 63 per cent in the number of shoppers coming from the south and also ancedotally over the last few days we've seen an increase.

"Following the referendum, the number of southern cars increased from around 11 per cent to 17 per cent, which was significant enough. But over the weekend to yesterday we saw that jump again to just over 30 per cent of the total number of cars coming into the centre."

Mr Murray said some businesses have estimated takings have increased by more than 20 per cent, which might increase if the exchange rate remains the same.

"If this attractive exchange rate continues, it won't be just shoppers from nearby areas such as Monaghan, Louth and north Dublin that will travel north, we will get people from further afield, especially if they're looking for a bargain," he said.

"If it stays the same, we anticipate a good run-up to Christmas."

The negative economic fall-out from the Brexit vote has also brought an unexpected bonus for retail and export businesses in the north west.

Retail owners in Derry have reported a marked increase in shopper numbers from the Republic anxious to take advantage of the greater value of the euro against the pound sterling.

Export businesses have also noted an upturn in trade as the weak pound makes purchasing goods north of the border more attractive.

In the past a strong pound sterling led to many northern shoppers travelling to Letterkenny, Buncrana and other large towns to shop on a regular basis, while smaller border towns also benefited from more attractive diesel and petrol prices than the north.

However, that trend has reversed dramatically in recent weeks.

Sinéad McLaughlin, chief executive of Derry’s chamber of commerce, said there was strong anecdotal evidence that the weak pound has driven an influx of shoppers into Derry from Donegal.

"It is clear from the registration plates of cars driving into car parks that there has been more people coming into the city centre from across the border. Retailers in Derry are in a strong position to benefit from the weak pound," she said.

She said the city centre has also been enhanced in recent years to offer a wider variety of choice and facilities to southern shoppers.

"The pound's position against the euro and the dollar is also helping to boost our local exporters."

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