'I went straight from the airport to Arnotts for gifts'
THE purse strings are finally being loosened after weeks of holding back the Christmas cash.
With workers finally on holiday and pre-Christmas pay packets delivered, there is a little more confidence in Dublin city centre this weekend.
Garry Hanniffy from Birr, Co Offaly, hit the shops immediately after arriving home for Christmas.
Garry, who moved to Singapore with his girlfriend six months ago, arrived at Dublin Airport yesterday morning and "went straight to Arnotts to buy some presents".
"You notice the negative tones the moment you arrive – but there's a much better Christmas atmosphere here and it's great to have it," he said.
Father-of-four Paul Jackson from Clondalkin, Dublin, along with his four-year-old daughter, Aoife, was out shopping for some gifts for his wife Orla.
"We've just been for a stroll through the streets and there's a great vibe around," he said.
But Joan Groark and her daughter Marykate Byrne, from Lucan, said it was quieter than expected.
"We always come into the city around this time of year but this year I definitely notice that people are holding back," said Ms Groark.
Margaret Gray (59) has been saying it with flowers for the past 47 years from the same "patch" on the corner of Dublin's Grafton Street and Harry Street.
But the flower seller, from Whitefriar Street whose daughter, also Margaret, has been helping her on their stall for 24 years, said business was "horrible".
And shoe designer Rachel Armstrong said customers were noticeably cautious.
The Fitzpatrick's Shoes director said: "Many don't want to pay the full price any more. They want to know if it's the best you can do."
But despite the talk of austerity, jeweller Paul Brereton said business was "fantastic", with fed-up consumers ignoring the economic gloom by splashing out on jewellery.
"Up to 85pc of people are still working and after five years of this (austerity) I think people feel it's okay to treat themselves and their loved ones to something nice," said Mr Brereton.
"Since we opened our shop here on Grafton Street last February, business has been unbelievably busy and I think that after being afraid to spend money, many people are now finding their feet," he said.