There has been a significant increase in the amount of Sterling being spent by Northern shoppers in the county in the past few weeks, as Donegal experiences a reversal of the trend that saw shoppers head in the other direction in recent years.
Traders in some parts of the county have experienced an increase of up to 60 per cent in the amount of Sterling coming into their tills in the Christmas shopping period.
The exchange rate and competitive rates being offered by local traders, as well as the good value on offer, have all contributed to an increase in shoppers crossing the border in recent weeks.
Figures show the number of shoppers from the Republic shopping across the border in the run-in to Christmas has been decreasing in recent years, but it appears that there has also been a reversal in that trend.
President of Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce, John Watson, said some traders in the town have experienced an increase of up to 60 per cent in Sterling cash compared to the same period last year, but the average has been between 30 and 40 per cent.
One store had seen an increase of 300 per cent in Sterling cash takings since the beginning of the month, he said.
But traders in the town, including the large multinational stores, have also experienced a significant increase in Sterling credit card sales, which allows users to take advantage of up-to-date exchange rates. “Shoppers coming in from the North cannot believe the value they are getting – 25 to 30 per cent on their Sterling,” he said. “It is a serious reversal of fortunes. We have made an effort advertising in the North on TV and radio stations, and with billboards in Derry. We have let people know we are here. We have had shoppers coming in from Derry and Strabane and we have people as far as Ballymena. You can see it if you walk around the car parks.”
Roisin Woods, senior manager with McElhinney’s in Ballybofey, said Sterling sales had increased on the same period last year. “The northern customer is definitely coming out over the border again,” she said. “I think there is good value and the McElhinney’s brand together with the Sterling rate makes it very attractive for the customer.”
She said customers had been coming from as far as Belfast as well as Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh.
“We have always attracted customers from the North but it did taper off when it (the exchange rate) was almost on a par but there has been an increase this year.”
Mr. Watson said a combination of factors had helped Letterkenny this Christmas, including the help of the gardaí in keeping traffic flowing and the large number of car park spaces available in the town.
“It has been very positive. It has been a good year for the town. I think it is the work the shops are putting in themselves that has also helped and that is paying back now. If we keep the Donegal shopper at home that what we want to do, but we are also attracting northerners back.”