Small businesses warn of €1bn loss over foreign shopping

IN YET another throwback to the ’80s, the Buy Irish campaign is elbowing its way back to the fore as competition from foreign shores threatens retailers’ Christmas take.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) has warned that thousands of jobs and up to €1 billion is lost to the economy because of our love of shopping over the border and taking flights to New York before Christmas.

The Buy Irish campaign was launched by the Government in the 1980s but was deemed unlawful by the European Court of Justice who said it would have the “practical effect” of restricting imports.

According to ISME chief executive Mark Fielding up to €553 million is lost to Irish businesses because of the annual spend in New York alone.

The Irish Examiner yesterday reported that customs will crack down on shoppers returning with goods from the US laden with presents.

Extra resources are being ploughed into checkpoints at Dublin and Shannon. Customs officials say they do not want to see Irish consumers disadvantaged by people evading duty.

As the US is outside the EU’s jurisdiction, Irish shoppers are only allowed a duty-free limit of €175 before they are obliged to pay 21% VAT and import duties of about 8%.

Mr Fielding estimated that up to €300m in taxes is lost to the economy each year and has accused customs of turning a “blind eye”.

“Last year, 291,000 Irish shoppers travelled to New York and spent an estimated €1,900 each, a total of €553m. This figure is replicated across US and other international cities. In the first quarter of this year, Irish shoppers’ spend abroad was up 30% and transatlantic travel up 35%,” he said.

“As Irish retail sales plummet, the level of product being brought in illegally tax free is having a serious impact on local shops and suppliers who are being undercut and ‘losing out’ on business.

“It is small local businesses who are really suffering. With customs ignoring the problem, the Government are selling small business down the river. Each illegally filled suitcase is another job lost,” said Mr Fielding.


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