Retailers in Derry have reported a booming Christmas this year, with over two million shopping visits to Foyleside aloneover the past two months.
Other shopping centres, retail park outlets and independent traders have also seen sales increase over the festive period.
The strength of the euro to the pound has been cited as a major factorin the busy festive season in the city, while a diverse mix of traders offering competitive prices, along with a programme of festive events, have also proved a big hit.
In the week leading up to Christmas Day, the number of shopping visits to the Richmond Centre jumped to over 200,000, up 23 per cent on the week before and also up on the same period last year.
At Foyleside Shopping Centre, manager Fergal Rafferty told the ‘Journal’ yesterday the number of shoppers from Donegal and other parts of the Republic coming to the centre to do their Christmas shopping in the week before Christmas had soared by 30 per cent on last year.
Sinead McLaughlin, Chief Executive of Derry’s Chamber of Commerce, said that the jump in shoppers from across the border was likely to be even higher at the large grocery retailers further out from the city centre, with many people coming to Derry for their main food and drink Christmas shopping.
Ms. McLaughlin said that the weeks leading up to Christmas had proved a “really good trading period” in the city.
Ms McLaughlin said: “There was a surge over the last three to four days.
“The traders really need this boost over Christmas. They have to make hay while the sun shines and February can be a very lean month, so they need this to sustain them. I have spoken to smaller retailers and they have had a good, busy Christmas, including those outside of the main shopping centres.
“People went out of their way to promote themselves this year and that has helped.”
She added that the main differentiation between this year and last year was obviously the exchange rate. “There was a lot of Donegal people shopping in the city.”
Ms. McLaughlin said that added to this, new shops opening up had helped bolster the influx of visitors, while events such as the animated windows at Austin’s had helped to create a festive atmosphere.
Fergal Rafferty, manager at Foyleside Shopping Centre, said they have had “an exceptional trading sales performance this Christmas with a late shopping surge in the last week posting an increase of 13 per cent over last year.”
“This was boosted by an influx of southern shoppers,showing increases of over 30 per cent versus last year,” he said.
“This is a welcome trend as last year the euro was much weaker.
“We have also new retailers since last year in Swarovski, Card Factory and Uberfone which have added to our already exceptional retail offering and Foyleside remains very much the regional shopping destination.
“This has also reflected in sales with the majority of traders in Foyleside reporting excellent growth in this period versus last year as euro shoppers avail of significant savings by shopping in the North.
“Many retailers were offering sales pre-Christmas with discounting on many items ahead of the January sales and we have had one of our busiest Boxing Day sales in a number of years.
“We have had over two million shoppers through Foyleside in the November-December period and this is ahead of last year.
“This is welcome as the UK trend has been reporting decreases in shoppers throughout the December period.”
Jennifer Taylor, marketing manager at the Richmond Centre, said they too had seen visitor numbers rise over recent weeks.
“We had a really good Christmas. We had 204,000 through the door just in the last week, Sunday to Saturday, Christmas Eve. This was up 24.5 per cent on the previous week, and 3 per cent on last year. The numbers are really, really healthy.”
Ms. Taylor said that a good mix of retailers at the Richmond Centre had helped draw even more shoppers.
“Everybody had a really good Christmas thankfully, and I think it helped that it was on a weekend this year.
“We are nearly 100 per cent occupied and we had new traders who were non-stop.
“There were queues at Santa’s Log Cabin. The amount of positivity we got from that was fantastic, we tried to cater for everyone and we had special morning visits for children with special needs. And every morning there were queues outside Argos and the Jam Restaurant was consistently busy with people getting meals and coffees.
“We had a couple of empty units which were taken over by pop-up units with a number of craft businesses coming in.
“The feedback from the crafters was that they did an absolutely fantastic trade. It seems like a lot of people were after something unique.”
Ms. Taylor added that there were a lot of people travelling from further afield this year, including Dublin and Belfast, to shop in Derry.
“That’s really good news for Derry,” she said.