Ireland's retail sector has enjoyed a reasonably good trading period in the run up to Christmas and expects trade to be 5% up on this time last year.

The sector is happy to be open and trading, according to Retail Ireland.

"Retailers saw a good bounce after restrictions were lifted in the summer and this has carried through to the end of the year," said Arnold Dillon, Director of Retail Ireland. "It's not spread evenly across the sector. The recent hospitality restrictions, the work from home guidance and the lack of tourists means footfall in some city centre locations is down."

Footfall in Dublin, in particular, is down 20 to 30% in places.

However, Mr Dillon said that even though shoppers are not browsing as much as before, the conversion rate is increasing. "There's less people in the city but typically they are spending a bit more."

The high rate of Covid 19 cases in the community is having an impact on staffing levels in retail.

"It's been a really difficult time for HR departments in retail during the pandemic. There's already very significant staff shortages across the sector, and with significant case numbers, it's been a challenge managing staff.

He said said larger stores are managing with a slimmer number of staff but it becomes a real challenge for smaller retailers when people are out.

"It could become more of a challenge in the new year so we'd ask the public for the patience in terms of shops trying to manage that issue," Mr Dillon said.

The Mandate trade union recently called for people to be more respectful of staff working in retail, following a number of incidents where staff endured abusive comments from members of the public who refused to comply with public health guidance.

"The vast majority of customers are really supportive of staff's time and comply with all the various rules on social distancing and wearing face masks."

Mr Dillon said Ireland is better than other countries in this regard. "Of course, there are always some idiots that make life a little bit difficult for everyone else and we try to manage those situations as best we can when they arise."

There will be sales after Christmas and in early 2022, but the "absolute priority" for the retail sector is to continue trading and and provide a safe shopping experience for customers.