SPIRALLING numbers of cross-border shoppers could see Asda's store in Enniskillen become the top-selling supermarket in the world, it has been revealed.
Asda is part of the American retail giant Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, and the Fermanagh store was Walmart’s fifth highest-selling outlet last year. It is currently the top-performing Asda store in the UK, outstripping its mainland counterparts, many of which are three-times bigger.
Earlier this week, it was claimed that a surge in cross-border shopping has helped Northern Ireland emerge from the recession. The Northern Bank said the Province “pulled out of recession” in the second half of 2009 thanks in part to bargain-hunters from the Republic who have benefited from the euro’s rise against the pound.
With hundreds of new shoppers from the Republic flocking each week to the Enniskillen Asda store - beside the Erneside shopping centre - in the run-up to Christmas, general manager Peter Beckett believes his supermarket will become the world’s number one.
“At the moment, we are the top-performing Asda store in the UK,” he said.
“Last year, the Enniskillen store was fifth in the entire Walmart chain worldwide, which was quite an achievement, and we are confident that by the New Year we will be the top store anywhere in the world.
“In essence we have a bigger turnover than any other Asda in the UK, some of which have three times more floor space than we have.”
With many shoppers from the Republic spending upwards of 500 euros, Asda Enniskillen has been forced to order new jumbo-sized shopping trolleys to meet the demand.
Speaking to the News Letter, Mr Beckett revealed that almost half of all his customers are coming from across the border, and some from as far south as Co Tipperary.
“We are very close to seeing almost 50 per cent of our trade in euros, and there are some of those customers who are spending between 600 and 700 euros in a single shopping trip,” he said.
“It is phenomenal business, I don’t think any of us could ever have imagined or dreamed that we could be this busy.
“A lot has been made of the number of shoppers in Newry, but in the last few months, we have had more and more shoppers from Dublin heading north-west to Enniskillen. They are coming from as far south as Mayo, Galway and Tipperary.”
The shop has employed more than 100 new staff in recent weeks to cope with the growing demand in the run-up to Christmas, and with a new extension planned for the New Year, it is hoped many of those jobs will become permanent.
“We have only been on this site here for about two years, so it has been a meteoric rise for a new shop.
“I believe that this trend of cross-border shopping will continue as long as sterling remains weak. In fact, over the last few months we have seen a steady increase in the number of cross-border shoppers, so I believe that this phenomenon is actually still building.
“With the new extension opening in the New Year, I am very hopeful that our additional staff will be retained, giving us a total of more than 500 colleagues.”
An indication of the scale of the stock being turned over on a daily basis is the fact that around 20, 40-foot lorries make a delivery to the store each day.
Sales in alcohol have been particularly high among southern shoppers, where savings of more than 50 per cent can be made.
One shopper who travelled for more than two hours from her home in Ballina, Co Mayo, said the savings were “worth every mile”.
“I am sure I have saved close to around 200 euros today. It’s not the first time I’ve been here, and it’ll not be last,” said Jane Crean.
“Some of the savings are really unbelievable, not only in alcohol. Look at this Calpol which I bought here for 2.80, I would pay almost eight euros at home for that.”