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Retailers bank on self-gifting

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By The Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Trinkel De La Paz, 24, loves this holiday's deep discounts because they're enabling her to be a more generous Santa.

To herself, that is.

The Los Angeles graphic designer bought herself an iPad Mini and some clothes discounted on Cyber Monday, and she's not done. De La Paz said she feels free to splurge on herself because she has extra money from a recently landed job, a new apartment waiting to be spruced up and only one present to buy for her family's Secret Santa exchange.

“These prices are only happening this time of year,” she said. “I might as well stock up now.”

Come Christmas, many shoppers decide to treat themselves to a little (or sometimes not-so-little) something extra. Some do it to take advantage of irresistible promotions. Others buy an item as a gift and then decide they want another for themselves.

This fine art of giving to oneself at the holidays, dubbed self-gifting by retail pollsters who track such behavior, has become a key indicator for how merchants will fare once the post-Christmas tallies come in.

“The willingness of the shopper to push her budget beyond what she had originally planned is a key influencer for holiday growth,” NPD Group analyst Marshal Cohen said in a blog post. “In fact, the self-gifting indicator has made the difference between growth and decline.”

Cohen reasons that each year, the number of gifts Americans expect to give remains roughly the same, making their tendency to buy presents for themselves a more accurate gauge of their economic circumstances. And during the recession, when spending declined, “one of the leading factors that saved retailers was an increase in self-gifting” by consumers.

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