The CSO have released their first report on the new cross-border shopping questions on the quarterly household survey (collected April-June 2009).  The full report can be found here.

The results make pretty interesting reading.  The headlines are:

16% of households made at least one shopping trip to Northern Ireland in the 12 months before the Quarter 2 2009 survey. The highest proportion of households who shopped in Northern Ireland was recorded in the Border region (41%).

More than one in ten households in the Border region (11%) reported that they made 13 or more trips and a further 14% reported making between six and 12 trips in the period.

Total household expenditure on shopping in Northern Ireland between Quarter 2 2008 and Quarter 2 2009 was €435 million. Households spent an average of €286 on shopping on their most recent trip to Northern Ireland.

Households spent most on Groceries, with an average of €114 spent on the most recent trip.  Almost 80% of households who shopped in Northern Ireland bought Groceries on their most recent trip

The likelihood of having made a shopping trip to Northern Ireland varied by household type. Households with children were the most likely to have made a shopping trip while households where one person aged 65 or over lived alone were least likely to have shopped in Northern Ireland.

Clearly, cross-border shopping is an important aspect of the retail geography of the island, with a substantial number of shoppers crossing into Northern Ireland to take advantage of cheaper prices.  According to retailers this has led to 11,000 retail jobs being lost in the Republic (see Irish Times).  Presumably most of these jobs have been lost in Border areas and also the mid-East, but at present we do not have good data on the effects of cross-border trade on local retail or job markets.

To my mind, these data show a better picture than I was anticipating, albeit it is still worrying for Southern retailers.  €435m is approximately €100 per person per annum, a small fraction of the total amount spent on retail in a year.  Indeed, the flight of capital out of the state is probably far less than through foreign holidays, property investments overseas, and financial investments overseas, which are more likely to be less spatially skewed.  And retail spend has more likely dropped much more substantially in the South through people ‘tightening their belts’ and spending much less in general.

Rob Kitchin

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