Shopping is something of a vexed issue in my hometown of Dundalk, which though in the Eurozone, lies close to the border with Northern Ireland, where Sterling is still used. Like border towns everywhere, its fortunes
are linked with the exchange rate. At the moment, the Euro is strong, so shoppers flock to cities like Newry and Belfast in search of bargains. Alcohol is a big attraction as there is a huge gap in the excise duties north and south, but so too are groceries, clothes and electrical goods.
. According to a recent survey 250,000 Irish households are now doing their shopping in Northern Ireland on a regular basis, with a loss of over 400,000 euro to the Irish exchequer this year. In the run-up to Christmas there will be mile long queues of cars on the approach to Newry as southern shoppers (known to the stressed out locals as 'Mexicans') travel in search of cheap groceries, toys, nappies and most of all booze. The Newry branch of Sainsburys is the company's best performing store across the UK and last year it had to close it doors at times as the staff couldn't cope with the sheer volume of customers.
I have to confess that I am among those travelling across the Border to shop. I feel guilty about it as I know the impact it has on local shops and businesses but like everyone else, I am trying to make my money stretch. However many of the large UK based multiples are to blame as they charge higher prices for goods here, despite the stronger Euro. It's also a case of swings and roundabouts, as shoppers from Northern Ireland come here when Sterling is stronger.