Consumers are tightening their belts and could be planning a low-budget Christmas, retailers were warned today.
The latest findings from the Consumer Confidence Index for Northern Ireland show members of the public remain in cautious mood.
And while some indicators of confidence have improved, a large portion of those surveyed said they planned to spend less, pointing to a frugal festive season.
"While the results are somewhat disappointing, they do reflect the fact that the economic recovery in the local economy is still very weak," said Northern Bank economist Angela McGowan.
"Although household confidence has gradually improved over the year the latest findings show that in the last three months households have not experienced any dramatic improvement in terms of the economic recovery."
The Northern Bank said the survey showed that expectations for changes in household finances over the next 12 months have improved marginally.
But forecasts for spending on 'big-ticket' items has declined. A total of 36% of those surveyed said they intended to spend less on big value items such as holidays or furniture.
Ms McGowan said: "Households remain confident that interest rates will remain low in the year ahead and that their household finances will be further supported by recent price falls in areas such as food and drink as well as restaurants.
"While improving expectations for household finances will to some extent support non-discretionary spending in the months ahead, the outlook for spending on non-essential items remains fragile."
The survey showed a significant increase in the number of people who expect their finances to improve over the next 12 months which has risen in the index by 48 points.
The number of people expecting to save which has increased by 23 points in the index, with many households seeking to establish a safety net of accessible funds for themselves.
The research is carried out by Millard Brown based on a sample of 1,000 people.