Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Monday, 2 November 2009

'No repeat' of shoppers' exodus

Brian Lenihan
Brian Lenihan said this year he would be able to react to the British budget

The Irish finance minister has said there will be no repeat of last year's exodus of southern shoppers to Northern Ireland in the run up to Christmas.

Retailers in the Republic lost out in the 2008 festive season as hundreds of thousands travelled north to avail of cheaper goods and a lower VAT rate.

But speaking to the Sunday Independent, Brian Lenihan said the British VAT 'holiday' was coming to an end.

He added he would be able to react to the British budget as it was due first.

"We didn't know last year that the British were bringing down their VAT rate, but at least this year the British budget is first, so I will study closely what happens before I make any decision," he said.

The UK VAT rate is set to return to 17.5% from the current 15% on 1 January 2010.

Loyalty

Mirroring last year's calls for people to "shop for Ireland", the minister also encouraged people in the Republic to support their local shops.

"People are free to travel to Northern Ireland.

"Just appreciate that, in a very difficult time, any tax you pay is not supporting our state."

Mr Lenihan also told the paper that "big" price reductions in the Republic within the last 12 months meant that shoppers were not guaranteed a better deal in Northern Ireland "in all cases".

But despite falling prices south of the border, southern shoppers have continued to vote with their feet.

Number plate numbers

About 250,000 households in the Republic are now travelling to Northern Ireland to do their shopping, according to figures released last week from the market research group TNS.

The figure is up by 50,000 on the same statistics for last year.

Informal research carried out by the cross border business development body, InterTrade Ireland, suggested that the proportion of southern-registered cars at four retail centres in Newry, Banbridge, Enniskillen and Strabane had increased from 50% to 70% since the summer.



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SEE ALSO
Shoppers 'head north for drink'
27 May 09 |  Northern Ireland
Southern shoppers 'to head north'
24 Nov 08 |  Northern Ireland

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