RETAILERS EYE IMPROVED CHRISTMAS SPEND - Retailers may be experiencing a better Christmas this year than last year and there are a number of reasons for this - an extra weekend in December this year because of the leap year, Northern shoppers crossing the border to shop in the Republic and weather that is not too bad.

One area of retail doing well is luxury goods - sales of Prada handbags, with prices starting at almost €1,000, increased by 100% over the past year at Brown Thomas. Next year the Italian brand is doubling its space at the store. Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton accessories boutiques at the store are also having to grow in size to cope with increased business. Prada will take over the space occupied there by Cartier when the jeweller pulls out of the Grafton Street store in the new year.

David Fitzsimons, chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, says the country's retailers are expecting a bumper week this week as increasing numbers of people have left their Christmas shopping to the last minute due to concerns about the Budget earlier this month. People on monthly salaries are also being paid this week and so a lot of spending is being back-loaded in the final run-up to Christmas. Mr Fitzsimons says that retailers in the shopping centres may be doing the best, but points out that events like the Waterford Winterval festival is also attracting shoppers to local retailers. Buy Irish schemes are also doing well, but Mr Fitzsimons says that value price is the main decider in people making a purchase with buying Irish second.

The Retail Excellence Ireland chief also says the "Santy spend" this year is on gadgets and electronic gifts and, not traditional toys. While luxury sales are doing well, the middle market remains tough for fashion retailers and Mr Fitzsimons says that some are facing a decrease of between 1-15% in like for like sales. Looking ahead to the sales, he says that more and more retailers are opening on December 26. He predicts that there will be bargains to be had as some retailers over-bought and have a lot of stock to get rid of.


MORNING BRIEFS - Aer Lingus could lose all but four of its valuable landing slots at Heathrow Airport if Ryanair succeeds in its bid for Aer Lingus. The Dublin to Heathrow route is one of the busiest airline routes in Europe and the slots are worth about €400m. As part of its takeover bid, Ryanair has suggested it sells 20 of the 24 landing slots to British Airways. But, even if the EU does approve the takeover, Ryanair would still have to convince Aer Lingus shareholders and staff that it is in their best interests.

*** More millionaires in the UK may move from the country - with warmer weather being the attraction rather than tax benefits, according to research. A survey by Lloyds TSB International found that as many as 22% of people worth £1m sterling or more are considering leaving Britain in the next two years. This was up from 19% a year ago. Of the countries the wealthy would like to move to, France topped the list, followed by Spain, the US, Australia and New Zealand.

*** Clinical research firm ICON will hold an EGM in Dublin today to discuss moving its listing to New York's Nasdaq. ICON employs about 8,000 staff worldwide, and expects to end its Dublin listing at the end of next month. It follows Greencore, United Drug and CRH who have all recently moved their primary listings abroad.