Retailers around the country are preparing for the onslaught of last-minute shoppers today, with the next few days likely to define many companies' 2017 performance.

So how has the Christmas trade been so far - and what is expected in the next few days?

Director of Retail Ireland Thomas Burke said this is a very important time for retailers.

He added "initial reports from retailers suggest slow and steady growth - if not spectacular growth - seems to be the order of the day. 

"That would suggest we're on target to hit the somewhere between 2-3% growth on the value of sales from Christmas 2016".

He said the growth "is not quite in line with general rises in consumers' disposable income, which is running at 5.5% for the first half of this year, so there's certainly some loss somewhere along the line".

Mr Burke said cross-border shopping has limited the growth potential for retailers to the South somewhat.

He added there is also "a noticeable increase in the rate of online activity and Irish consumers are on target to spend around €16 billion in e-commerce this year.

"The concerning element of that is about 75% of that total spend leaves the country to foreign websites."

The Retail Ireland Director said this is a "real challenge for Irish retailers going forward.

"While Irish retailers have been active in terms of developing their own web presence in the past couple of years, that's a slow process and it takes a number of years.

"It also takes some support from government to do that and we've been calling on the Government to help in that regard.

"Currently there's €2 billion in tax take lost each year in terms of the sales that are going outside of the State, so there is an imperative here not only for the Irish retail industry but also for the Irish Exchequer in terms of tax take."

He said weak sterling has contibuted to the trend of Irish consumers shopping online and spending outside the State.