Ir­ish shop­keep­ers fight Brexit fall­out

Res­i­dents shop­ping across the bor­der

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

DUN­DALK, Ire­land:

In the wake of the Brexit ref­er­en­dum earth­quake, few peo­ple felt the af­ter­shocks as keenly as the shop­keep­ers of Dun­dalk, a sleepy town of 37,000 peo­ple on the Ir­ish bor­der with North­ern Ire­land. Fol­low­ing the plunge in the value of the pound, res­i­dents have been head­ing across to North­ern Ire­land to do their shop­ping and the move­ment has only in­ten­si­fied in the run-up to Christ­mas. But while the politi­cians are still try­ing to fig­ure out what Brexit will look like, re­tail­ers in Dun­dalk are fight­ing back with gift vouch­ers - a form of al­ter­na­tive cur­rency aimed at boost­ing lo­cal shop­ping.

“The vouch­ers al­low busi­nesses to give their em­ploy­ees up to 500 euros ($520) as a Christ­mas bonus tax free, mak­ing it a win for em­ploy­ers, a win for em­ploy­ees and a win for lo­cal busi­nesses,” Dun­dalk Cham­ber of Com­merce chair­man Michael Gaynor told AFP. The pound is cur­rently about 10 per­cent lower against the euro com­pared to be­fore the June 23 ref­er­en­dum. The vouch­ers are avail­able on­line or from the Dun­dalk Cham­ber of Com­merce’s of­fice and can be ob­tained ei­ther by in­di­vid­u­als as reg­u­lar gift vouch­ers for Christ­mas pre­sents or by em­ploy­ers for bonuses.

The col­or­ful “Shop Lo­cal Vouch­ers” are printed in de­nom­i­na­tions of 5, 10, 20 and 50 euros and are ac­cepted in more than 200 Dun­dalk stores, from jewel­ers to elec­tri­cal out­lets to cafes. So far this year vouch­ers to the value of more than 300,000 euros have been pur­chased and the Cham­ber ex­pects this to top out at over 500,000 euros by the end of the fes­tive pe­riod in early Jan­uary - a wel­come boost to a lo­cal econ­omy un­der se­vere pres­sure.

‘Worth tak­ing the trip’

The bor­der prom­ises to be a cen­tral part of Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions as many on both sides fear a re­turn of cus­toms and po­lice checks - the “hard” bor­der present dur­ing decades of con­flict on the is­land. The bor­der is cur­rently open and checks would be “hugely prob­lem­atic”, in­clud­ing for many peo­ple from North­ern Ire­land who work in Dun­dalk, Gaynor said.

In re­cent months, shop­pers from the Ir­ish Re­pub­lic have been cross­ing the bor­der in waves to take ad­van­tage of the fa­vor­able ex­change rate, par­tic­u­larly on al­co­hol, toys and gro­ceries. A re­cent Red C poll in­di­cated that as many as 56 per­cent of shop­pers in bor­der coun­ties in­tended to travel to North­ern Ire­land for Christ­mas shop­ping and a re­port by Good­body Stock­bro­kers showed traf­fic flows from south to north on Satur­day morn­ings had surged 29 per­cent in the wake of the ref­er­en­dum.

Al­though there are strong ap­peals to sup­port the lo­cal econ­omy, even peo­ple walk­ing the streets of Dun­dalk are vot­ing with their pock­ets. “Ev­ery­thing up north for toys is a lot cheaper and there is more va­ri­ety - it’s def­i­nitely worth tak­ing the trip up to get some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and save a few euros,” said Chris Cu­miskey, a house­wife who said she can save around 25 per­cent on food shop­ping in the nearby North­ern Ire­land town of Newry.

Eu­gene Kelly, an un­em­ployed man, said: “At the end of the day, you’re go­ing to go for the bar­gains. “They can say the econ­omy here is go­ing to be af­fected but at the end of the day you’ve got to go for your own pocket,” he said. Lor­raine Prenty, a hu­man re­sources ex­ec­u­tive, said she chose to shop lo­cal but noted the in­crease in cars head­ing across the bor­der in re­cent months. “Around Dun­dalk there just isn’t the same vol­ume of traf­fic or the num­ber of peo­ple this year,” she said. —AFP

DUN­DALK: Cather­ine Quigley (left) hands over vouch­ers, a form of al­ter­na­tive cur­rency aimed at boost­ing lo­cal shop­ping at a cafe in this bor­der town on Dec 1, 2016. —AFP

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