No single item standing out on 'wish lists' this year
Whether it be high-tech or low-tech, shoppers will have a variety of gifts to chose from during this holiday season.
Technology remains popular, especially following the launch of new products in the last few months.
“There’s such a buzz and a craze for e-readers and tablets right now,” said Rebecca Flach, spokeswoman for the Retail Council of New York State.
It is not just the adults — kids are getting into the act as well, according to Flach.
“There’s a variety of these mini computers for children that are educational in nature, [teaching] spelling, phonics and math,” she said.
Video games and electronics are the hot toys popular with the younger set. However, unlike in past years when toys like “Tickle Me Elmo” flew off the shelves, no breakout toy has emerged this year.
For adults, Flach said people can’t go wrong with clothing, books, CDs and DVDs, as well as handbags and accessories for women.
Merchants are feeling slightly more optimistic about the upcoming season and predict consumers will spend the same or a little more, she said.
“We’ve seen that in consumer confidence trends for the last few months. Home values are starting to increase again,” she said.
However, it is not all good news, as unemployment and the cost of food and gas remain high.
“There are some folks who will be watching every penny,” she said. “Merchants are expecting consumers to be especially price-conscious.”
Northeastern Fine Jewelry is using technology as an enticement, giving away an iPad 4 with a purchase of $1,499 and an iPad Mini for spending $999 on Black Friday.
Gregg Kelly, vice president of Northeastern Fine Jewelry, said shoppers are looking for extra value.
“We invented these promotions to try and keep the shoppers in our stores. We’ve seen some great results in the past few years,” he said.
Kelly said there is still a little bit of uncertainty in the country following the election and shoppers may be cautious. He agreed that cost will be a factor, and he is stocking a lot of items costing between $300 and $1,000.
Yellow gold and Pandora jewelry are still popular, he said. Also, there is a popular trend among women of layering long necklaces with shorter necklaces.
For people looking for something for the home, Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Albany has a new Nespresso coffee machine that sells for about $200 and makes lattes and cappuccinos, according to Virginia Rinehart, cooking school coordinator.
“It’s really popular over in Europe,” she said.
Another perennial favorite is cast iron cookware made in France by Le Creuset.
If people need to brush up on their cooking skills, a gift of cooking lessons, which range in price from $40 to $75, is a good idea.
Food itself is always a welcome gift. Sherry Lindsey, owner of A One of a Kind Gift in Colonie, has more than a thousand types of gift baskets, including those filled with sugar-free or gluten-free items.
“Most of our gifts are food-related, which is good because everybody eats. It’s not going to get put out in the tag sale or not fit,” she said.
The gift baskets are customized to the recipient’s tastes.
A popular gift that can also be tailored to people’s interests is books. Amy Lane, book buyer for The Open Door, said there are some interesting titles out there. Her personal favorite is “Safari,” which costs $24.95 and is similar to a pop-up book. By lifting the pages, people can put the animals found in an African safari in motion, almost like watching a video.
“I think this is for everybody. I think this is the really cool gift of the season because it’s totally unique and it’s not something you’re going to find on anybody’s coffee table,” he said.
In adult fiction, a hot book is “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver, which takes place in Appalachia and is a about a woman who visits a lake that looks like a lake of fire, which leads others to judge this supposed miracle.
There are also a slew of popular nonfiction titles, including a memoir by author Richard Russo, a book consisting of letters from Kurt Vonnegut and biographies of Pete Townshend and Bruce Springsteen.
You can’t go wrong with books as a gift, as long as it matches the recipient’s interests.
“You name it, we’ll find something,” she said.
For the craft enthusiast, The Katbird Shop owner Kathy Fitzmaurice has handmade glass fused ornaments that are good for windows and trees. There are also pillows with different embroidered designs. She also offers locally crafted pottery and bowls made from burl wood.
Mostly everything in the store is local, which she said is becoming a hot trend.
“We see more people paying attention to where things are being made,” she said.