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Local retailers reap benefits of cross-border post-Brexit shoppers

Thursday, 5 January 2017

A FAVOURABLE exchange rate post-Brexit vote means local retailers should continue to reap the benefits of an increase in cross-border shoppers well into the New Year, experts have forecast.
Since the June 23 referendum, which saw the UK vote to leave the European Union (EU), Northern Ireland border towns have reported an influx of bargain hunters from the Republic of Ireland.
Sterling has continued to plummet against the euro and as of Friday, exchange rates of between 85p and 86p were being offered per euro. The value of sterling sat at 1.17 against the euro.
The weak sterling rate meant that shop owners here were able to enjoy one of the best Christmases in terms of footfall in recent years with hundreds of shoppers drawn across the border.
In Strabane town centre and the local retail parks there has been a noticeable flow of southern shoppers in a bid to cash in on the depreciation of the pound sterling following the vote for Bexit.
Shop owners have also reported an increase in shopper numbers from the Republic anxious to take advantage of the rate.
In the days and weeks leading up to the festive period there had been a marked increase in the number of southern registration plates parked along the town's streets and car parks.
The decline of the pound since the EU Brexit referendum is undoubtedly having a significant effect with the number of shoppers from the Republic coming north of the border with several reports suggesting that footfall has increased by around 30 per cent.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Association (NIIRTA), who is a regular visitor to Strabane, said he believes the exchange rate post Brexit is helping border towns.
"There are indications that it will be one of the best Christmases," he said. "I think given the currency situation we will continue to see shoppers arriving from across the border.
'Record level'
"Online sales are probably at their record level and in order to challenge that, the only thing shops can do is to ensure that they have a very attractive offer."
With the sales continuing and with many items slashed in price by half and up to 70 per cent in some shops, local shop keepers are hopeful of a positive New Year.
It's not just shops who have been reaping the benefits, local hotels, pubs and restaurants have also seen a significant surge in profits.
Colm Gallagher, manager of SuperValu in the town and president of Strabane Chamber of Commerce, said that Strabane did see an increase of southern shoppers during the Christmas period.
Mr Gallagher said: "Over Christmas we did (see an increase in southern shoppers). We're heading into Brexit and we don't really know what's going to happen and at the minute everyone is having a small high but it's not back to where it was.
"Over Christmas tended to be the best and it was quite good with shoppers especially in the retail park, there was a lot of activity but how that pans out we'll just have to see."
Turning his attention to local hotel, pub and restaurant trade, he added: "That's an area which is difficult to capitalise because the Fir Trees (hotel) is the only one so we need more to capitalise but hopefully they have seen an increase. Pubs and nightclubs may have seen a substantial increase but hotels might be slow enough."
Advising business owners to take advantage of the Euro rate and to take steps to make their customers aware of it, Mr Gallagher concluded: "Everyone should take advantage of it and make their own customers aware of where they are with the Euro rate to attract as many as possible."

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