Pharmacy, cosmetics, electronics, technology and fashion have been the most popular categories for online shoppers here so far this festive season. Figures compiled by industry body Retail Excellence Ireland show a sales lift of up to 60% year-on-year during the final week of November. This week is often referred to as Cyber Week as it is the point when online retail figures spike. It was led originally by US retailers tempting shoppers by offering bargains around the American Thanksgiving holiday.

Lorraine Higgins, deputy chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, said the survey was representative of all the retail sectors here and the fact that retailers were reporting a 20-60% increase in sales is a very, very positive story. Due to events such was Cyber Week, retailers are changing their sales strategy and elongating the Christmas shopping period and are benefiting as a consequence. This obviously benefits the Exchequer as well, she added.

After Budget 2018, Lorraine Higgins said that more money is being put back into people's pockets, which is impacting positively on consumer sentiment. A record number of people are also back at work and so will up their spending. But she added that the retail sector is not without its challenges, and the amount of spending that is "leaking out" of the country on a daily basis is one of these challenges. Two thirds of consumers' online spend is going out of the country and further supports for retailers to take on the European online stage are needed. She said that Enterprise Ireland currently supports manufacturing and processing companies, and now it is time the agency also supported the retail industry. 

Ms Higgins said that online sales is a very important part of retailers' business - and predicts it will take over the world. She said that it will become up to 30% of retailers' business and so is too big to ignore. There are difficulties due to poor broadband services in some areas of the country, but Ms Higgins said that €602 billion is being spent by European consumers online and Irish retailers have to get a slice of that ever increasing pie. According to Department of Communications figures, 84% of Irish consumers by 2020 will buy "frequently" online, she added.

MORNING BRIEFS - Dunnes Stores Northern Ireland paid a £250m dividend to its parent company last year.
Accounts filed by Dunnes Stores Bangor show it paid the dividend out of accumulated profits. At the end of December 2016 the retailer's Northern Ireland subsidiary still held just under £76m in shareholders funds.

*** Disney is closing in on a reported $60 billion deal to acquire most of the assets of rival studio Fox. The Financial Times reports the deal, which will face regulatory scrutiny because of its scale and the scope to concentrate media ownership further in both the US and Europe, could be announced as early as tomorrow. It would see Disney acquire the assets of film studio 20th Century Fox and Fox's stake in pay-TV broadcaster Sky.

*** The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Philip Lowe, has said fascination with crytpocurrencies feels like a "speculative mania". The comments come just days after the debut of Bitcoin futures on Wall Street which has rocketed in value this year but has whipsawed on a day-to-day basis gaining 20% or more in a trading session and then falling sharply.

*** Spain's Inditex, the world's largest clothing retailer and owner of brands including Zara, today reported net profit of €2.3 billion for the nine months to September. This marked a 6% increase from a year earlier.