Derry traders braced for ‘frantic’ festive week

.A section of the large crowd that turned out for the arrival of Santa Claus at Foyleside at the start of the Christmas festivities this year. DER4415MC056

.A section of the large crowd that turned out for the arrival of Santa Claus at Foyleside at the start of the Christmas festivities this year. DER4415MC056

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Over two million people have poured through the doors of Foyleside Shopping Centre in the past eight weeks, while traders across the North West are bracing themselves for a “frantic” pre-Christmas rush.

Many traders in Derry have been reporting a buoyant trade, despite some indications that a weak euro is resulting in Donegal residents shopping more locally.

We still have four shopping days left and already over the past eight weeks we have over two million shoppers at Foyleside. It has been strong right through.

Fergal Rafferty, Manager, Foyleside Shopping Centre

Fergal Rafferty, Manager of Foyleside Shopping Centre said: “We still have four shopping days left and already over the past eight weeks we have over two million shoppers at Foyleside. It has been strong right through.

“We are anticipating a frantic last few days and we are up open until 11pm each night and then until 5pm Christmas Eve. By this stage shopping online is basically no longer an option so we expect to see many people going out to do their shopping now.”

Mr Rafferty said that despite the weakened euro, there was still a lot of shoppers who saw Foyleside as the regional shopping destination, with new brands like MAC cosmetics and the Apple Store proving a popular draw for people alongside the long-standing stores like Dunnes.

The Chief Executive of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, Sinead McLaughlin, agreed that Derry was more than holding its own, with many independent and other retailers happy with the footfall levels so far.

Ms McLaughlin said: “The town is very busy at the minute. There is always a rush at the end and we still have four more good shopping days to go, so we are hoping it continues.

“We can even see it in the night-time economy- it has been very, very busy over the past three weekends, and a barometer of that is the taxis and they have been flat out the last three weekends. It started around December 4 and has gone right through.”

Ms McLaughlin said that Christmas parties and reunions were helping towards a thriving Christmas for local restaurants and hotels.

“The hospitality trade is going very well and it seems to be good everywhere.

“I’ve been around quite a few independent traders and they are doing well. They are busy and working hard and making hay while the sun shines.”

She added that Derry traders were well versed in preparations for the fluctuations in currency value, being so close the border.

“Derry city centre is always very competitive and remains very much so,” she said. “We are used to working with the peaks and troughs of the euro.”

Across the border meanwhile, Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce is also reported a steady rise in commercial activity over the past year for the town,

Toni Forrester, Chief Executive of Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce, said: “It has been really busy in the town here.

“The rate for sterling has made a big difference and what that is doing is keeping people in Donegal and this is the biggest bonus. The traders are happy that local people are shopping local.

“The economy is getting better, people seem to be spending a bit more and businesses seem to be quite happy with how Christmas has been going.

“There is also the advantage for people coming from the north because of the exchange rate and prices have come down over the years and are definitely on a par with the UK,” she said.

And this shopping local trend is also being borne out closer to home across Inishowen as well.

Deirdre Bradley, chairperson of the Carndonagh Development Committee, told the Journal last week that the town’s shopping vouchers had already far surpassed the 48,000 euro total sold in December last year. Meanwhile in Buncrana, Chamber President Ryan Stewart said they have already had to reprint their vouchers twice..