Retailers have recorded a slightly lower level of trade this Christmas compared to 2012, according to industry body Retail Excellence Ireland.

The organisation said it expects trading to be down marginally against last Christmas, based on feedback from more than 300 leading retailers across the country.

It said that - despite a small increase in discretionary income amongst consumers along with some positive signs coming from the wider economy - shoppers are remaining cautious in their spending.

 "Six years of cautious spending behaviour has become a hard habit to break", said REI chief executive David Fitzsimons.

"The retail industry was bullish entering the festive season due to the rescheduling of Budget to October, a return to economic growth and the exit of the Troika. Unfortunately these positives did not impact on spending in the run up to Christmas 2013."

Mr Fitzsimons said the prospect of a full year’s property tax in 2014 had damaged consumer sentiment, while bad weather had affected the number of people going shopping in recent weeks.

REI said that many had also postponed much of their spending until the sales period, especially when it comes to fashion, luxury and “big ticket” household purchases.

Mr Fitzsimons said that sale offers were now likely to be bigger than previously planned, as retailers looked to move the larger-than-anticipated levels of stock they are holding.