SHOPPERS are being offered free or cut-price parking in several cities in a drive to win a bigger share of seasonal spending.
Councils in Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Cork, Sligo and Waterford have slashed prices and introduced park-and-ride services to encourage people to shop in city centres.
While spending this Christmas is expected to be down on last year, the average family is still expected to spend €1,000 on everything from presents, trees, food and drink and socialising.
Dublin City Council has cut on-street parking charges by 66pc, with a €1 per hour fee in place every Saturday and Sunday until the end of December.
Some 800 spaces will be available in the core retail area, which includes shopping streets around O'Connell Street and Grafton Street.
The Dublin Chamber of Commerce welcomed the move. "Retail sales have continued to grow in recent months, so by making it easier for people to access the city during one of the busiest times of the year we should see this trend continue," a spokesman said.
Other cities have already introduced cheaper rates, including Waterford, where free parking is available on Fridays from 3pm for late-night shopping.
In Sligo, customers can avail of an hour's free parking for every hour they stay. Free parking in all public spaces will be introduced from December 17, the busiest shopping period, while Galway city has introduced a park-and-ride scheme whereby shoppers leave their car at Ballybrit at a cost of €2 for the day.
In Limerick, some 3,000 free spaces will be available from 2pm every day, starting next Saturday.
Limerick Mayor Gerry McLoughlin said it was "another good reason" to come into the city.
In Cork, free late-night parking has been introduced, along with a free park-and-ride service on Saturdays.