Retail Ireland - part of employers group IBEC - says retailers are now focusing more on their online operations.

In its online retailing survey, Retail Ireland says the Irish online market spend is €4.1 billion and this is predicted to grow to €21 billion by 2017.

But it also says there are barriers to this expansion like delivery costs, set-up costs, poor broadband speeds and a lack of post codes in the country.

The survey covers 500 stores with 18,000 employees. It shows that 84% of these stores have an online presence and 64% of those intend to upgrade that presence in the next 18 months.

It was published as the first Retail Ireland annual conference takes place in Dublin's Aviva Stadium, in partnership with IBEC Retail Skillnet.

"Irish retailers are now sharply focused on catering to the digital consumer as well as the traditional customer. It's a huge market, estimated at a value of €4.1 billion in Ireland alone and the retailers surveyed reported that 15% of their sales now come from online sales,'' commented Retail Ireland Director Stephen Lynam.

He said that retail is one of Ireland's largest sectors, employing over 250,000 people.

''The sector has faced major challenges in recent years, most predominantly slow domestic demand. Given that the sector is under huge pressure, it needs every support possible to help it overcome the very challenging market conditions," Mr Lynam added.