Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 11:50 UK

Irish shoppers boost retail park

The Outlet, Banbridge

A steady stream of shoppers from the Irish Republic have helped a County Down shopping centre post a year on year sales growth of more than 20%.

The Outlet at Banbridge said in the last year the average shopper spend was also up by 13.5%.

Its 'car counts' showed 83% more Irish registered vehicles in the the carpark that this time a year ago.

Over the Christmas period the number of shoppers travelling from the Republic increased by 150%.

Euan Forbes, manager of the centre, said there was a influx of shoppers every weekend.

"Our retailers and the area as a whole are benefiting from a consistent flow of traffic from the South," he said.

"There are stages throughout the year where the Outlet is getting more southern visitors than some of Northern Ireland's most popular tourist attractions, these retail tourists are a major factor in our continued sales growth."

Meanwhile, figures released by the Department of Trade and Investment showed a 26% increase in the number of holidaymakers visiting Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland last year.

In 2008, 367,000 trips were made to Northern Ireland by Republic of Ireland residents.

The amount of money spent by tourists in Northern Ireland last year also increased by 16% to almost £50m.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said the increase in visitor numbers has exceeded expectations.

"Short term opportunities are available through the strong euro, however, to maximise the benefits in the future we must continue to promote an excellent and value for money experience across Northern Ireland," she added.

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