Shoppers fuel the north's economy

Nearly 230,000 households travelled to the North between November of last year and February of this year to do their shopping. New data from market research specialist TNS Worldpanel reveals that shoppers from the Republic spent £55.5m (€61.5m) on groceries in Sainsbury's and Asda in that time period.

The upshot of all this is that some shopping centre owners in the North are now expanding to take advantage of the increased levels of business. Dr Gerard O'Hare has decided to expand The Quays in Newry after footfall, which is the number of people visiting a centre, increased 25% last year. "Currently the centre is trading at three times the level it was designed for," said centre manager Cathal Austin. Asda is also looking for a site in the town.

The owners of Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon are planning to invest more than €40m in an expansion of their mall. "A certain percentage of people want to avoid the traffic in Newry and continue on to Craigavon," said Anne Marie Murphy of letting agent Savills, which is seeking tenants for the expanded centre. Rushmere already provides free bus services for shoppers coming from Drogheda and Monaghan and the €40m will be spent on a new department store, multi-screen cinema, five restaurants and more than 600 car spaces.

Finance minister Brian Lenihan recently admitted that the Republic is losing up to €700m in Vat receipts every year, in part because of the number of shoppers going north. The Revenue Commissioners is also concerned as the issue was discussed by its influential management advisory committee in recent months.