Irish shoppers are breaking for the border - but is it worth the trip?

A recent poll showed that a third of shoppers in the Republic intended to go North before Christmas

Irish shoppers are breaking for the border - but is it worth the trip?

Shoppers make their way from the Quays Shopping Centre, Newry, Northern Ireland. Picture by PETER MORRISON AP/Press Association Images

Thousands of people are set to travel across the Northern Irish border for shopping trips in the run-up to Christmas.

Northern retails say the post-Brexit fluctuations in the Sterling rate has boosted the number of shoppers visiting from the Republic by as much as 60% - and it is expected that that trend will continue.

A recent poll by Red C for the Sunday Business Post showed that a third of shoppers here intended to go North before Christmas - increasing to 34% in Dublin and 56% in border countries.

Meanwhile, a report by Goodbody Stockbrokers on traffic flows from the start of November showed that there is a massive weekend increase in South to North traffic year-on-year - including a 29% surge on Saturdays between 10 and 11am.

Pat Kenny Show reporter Richard Chambers travelled across the border with Marie from North Country Dublin, who made the trip to Sainsbury's in Newry last Saturday morning.

"You have got to watch the different prices," she explained. "I checked a few prices in Tesco yesterday evening before heading up, just to see what [...] the difference is."

She highlighted wine, beer, chocolate, toiletries and household products as some of the products she was looking to get cheaper in the North.

"The cereal I get is €4.59 in the South, and it's £2 a box here," she explained. "I've bought 20 boxes, and I've saved around €45 on cereal alone."

Ultimately, her tally came to €171.39 for the products bought in Sainsbury's. For the same shop in North Dublin, it would have cost €281.

Marie said she 'absolutely' does not feel guilty for travelling across the border. "I pay my taxes, I pay my social welfare, I pay USC like every person who's working," she told Richard. "We've been ripped off big time".

There are, however, many factors to bear in mind when making the trip. Petrol will inevitably prove a significant expense, and individuals will have to weigh up whether or not it's worth the time involved. On busy days in particular, shoppers from the Republic are likely to encounter long queues.

For many, the best bargains will only be found when buying in bulk - which can allow for savings that justify the cost & time involved. For expensive individual items like Christmas presents, there can be some great value to be found in the North - but then other items will be cheaper in the South

Richard spoke to some other shoppers to see whether or not they felt the trip was worthwhile.

One Dubliner observed: "There wasn't great bargains - when you have your €10 voucher for Dunnes and all that."

Others were more positive, explaining: "I'm up for games... I priced a game at home in Dublin at €69.99. I priced it online here and it's £22.99.

"I think I'll be back up again before Christmas," that shopper added.

The high level of cross-border shopping can be particularly tough on border areas which have not seen any real recovery yet - particularly ones along the Louth and Monaghan borders. One Donegal man contacted Richard to say that it has been an 'exodus through Strabane'.

That has meant a lot of towns have had to fight back to keep shoppers in the Republic.

Dundalk, for example, is offering cost-free shop-local vouchers to employers for the Christmas bonus for staff. The employer pays say €500 for the voucher - the voucher is worth €500, goes straight to the employee, and then goes straight back into local shops. It is a cost-effective bonus in tax terms.

Paddy Malone, the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce Public Relations Officer, says he believes the furore over cross-border shopping is overblown.

"There is still some discrepancy, but not as much as people are making it out to be," he argued.

He also pointed out that Donald Trump's election in the US has seen the sterling rate fluctuate - to the benefit of businesses on the southern side of the border.

"What I would say to people is - don't be ripped off," Paddy concluded. "Do your homework. If you're finding a shop is ripping you off, cut them out."