Shopping in North has cost 11,000 jobs, say retailers


CROSS-BORDER SHOPPING has cost 11,000 retail jobs in 2009 and thousands more are on the line next year, retailers have claimed.

However, the Consumers’ Association of Ireland said shoppers would continue to go North as long as everyday items were cheaper there.

It was responding to a new report which shows shoppers from the Republic spent about €435 million in Northern Ireland in the 12 months to July.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) says its figures are probably an underestimate because they don’t take account of seasonality, in particular the pre-Christmas rush.

Some 16 per cent of households made at least one shopping trip to the North during the period to July, and shoppers from Dublin accounted for one-third of all trips.

Responding to the CSO report, Retail Ireland said that, in addition to job losses, cross-Border shopping was costing the State €220 million a year in income tax lost and social welfare payments. It called on the Government to reduce excise levels on alcohol in next week’s budget and to reduce VAT to 18 per cent.

Retail Excellence Ireland urged consumers to support their fellow workers in the retail industry by making everyday or Christmas purchases in the Republic.

Chief executive David Fitzsimons admitted goods could be cheaper in the North because of the VAT differential “and other factors” but said the short-term gain involved would only prolong the long-term pain for everyone.

“We all need to realise that every euro we spend north of the Border is revenue lost to the Irish economy and we are going to have to pay the price for this either through further cutbacks in public spending or more job losses.”

However, the consumers’ association chairman, James Doorley, said the report showed shoppers were going North primarily for groceries, and not alcohol. “It suits the retailers to blame the problem on drink prices and lay the responsibility at the door of Government to reduce excise, because this deflects attention away from the fact that the price of food and groceries is still too high.”

The CSO study shows the closer shoppers live to the Border the more often they shop in the North, while the amount spent per trip rises with distance from the Border.

Overall, those most likely to have shopped in Northern Ireland were those living in the Border area, two-income households, those aged between 30 and 44, and households with children.

Some 41 per cent of households in the Border counties shopped in Northern Ireland, but this figure fell to 21 per cent for Dubliners and just 9 per cent for shoppers from the southeast, midwest and southwest combined.

The average amount spent on most recent trips was €286, of which €114 went on groceries and €32 on alcohol. Households in the southeast, midwest and southwest combined spent an average of €492 on shopping on their most recent trip, compared to just €150 for Border households.

Eighty per cent of consumers said they bought groceries on their trip up North and alcohol was the next most popular purchase at 44 per cent. Clothing and cosmetics were bought by 42 per cent and 26 per cent of households, respectively. Residents of Border counties were also the most regular cross-Border shoppers; of those who made the journey, the average frequency was 14 trips in the year.

This is the first time the CSO has included questions about cross-Border shopping in the quarterly National Household Survey.

Cross-Border shopping: the facts

  • One out of every six households went shopping in the North in the year to last July.
  • Nearly half of all residents in the Border counties shopped in the North and 21 per cent of Dubliners.
  • 80 per cent went on day trips and 90 per cent travelled by car.
  • The average till receipt was €286.
  • The typical cross-Border shopper lives near the Border, comes from a two-income household and has children.