Christmas lights in central Dublin were switched on tonight, three weeks early, to try to encourage shoppers.

Retailers report that although there are just as many shoppers on city streets as this time last year, they are being more cautious with their spending.

Retail sales have fallen every month this year except January and in August.

More than €1m has been spent on new low energy Christmas lighting for the centre of Dublin.

Dublin's Lord Mayor Councillor Eibhlin Byrne says all citizens should show some 'civic patriotism' and do their Christmas shopping at home rather than spending on trips to New York or simply heading north of the border.

But the Dublin City Business Association says that although it expects spending to be lower this year, it is confident that Irish shoppers will dip into savings and credit to have a merry Christmas.