What does the run up to Christmas tell us about the economy?
It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas in the shops. So how are retailers gearing up for the prime time of year that's crucial to the survival of many smaller shops. Plus robust consumer spending is crucial to recovery, so what is it telling us about the wider economy?
There's no doubt retailing has become a tougher sell. There's more competition, both from online and the big chains. Glyn Roberts is from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Association. He says there's been a short term bounce because of the weak pound with more shoppers flocking across the border.
"There is a feeling amongst our members grab it while you can," he said. "There is a lot of hard work going in to make sure we give the best possible experience to shoppers this Christmas."
You can listen to Glyn's interview on our podcast; car parking and bus lanes are particular frustrations that emerge, plus we talk about what retailers can do to embrace online to boost their offering, rather than view it as a threat.
Andrew Webb is an economist and chair of Belfast City Centre Management. He thinks further down the line inflation will creep up and traders will have to work hard to offer more to consumers but retailers are "cautiously optimistic"? about the coming Christmas season.
"The city has a new ambition about it, it's looking well," he said. "It's a positive place to be. It's about putting the social back into shopping."
You can hear more about Andew's projections on consumer spending habits in his interview.
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