Everyone is tightening their belts this holiday season but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t spending money. It just means that they are being more picky about what they spend their money on. For retailers, this means that the sort of things that normally would sell during the holidays might not be big sellers but rather items that aren’t typically big sellers may do very well this holiday.

By using a little common sense, we should be able to predict what will do well this holiday season and what won’t.

Unlike in past years, people are going to be less willing to waste their money on novelty items or frivolous gifts. Billy the Big Mouth Singing Bass would never have become a phenomena this year! As people become more careful with their money, they are more likely to impose their own thriftiness on their gift buying as well, so most gifts going out this year will likely have an emphasis on functional.

Items that should see a decline in popularity this holiday season are:

  • Gag gifts and other novelty items
  • Gift certificates
  • Purely decorational new items (ornaments, knick knacks, etc)
  • Limited Edition 2008 Whatever
  • Tickets to events
  • Extravagances or special version of items (IE, retail bought items at lower cost will do better over more trendy handmade expensive alternatives)

Now as for what people WILL be being, let’s look a few facts from the news and then use some common sense to figure out what they mean for us.

FACT: People are spending more time at home to save money.

COMMON SENSE CONCLUSION: Home Goods, particularly kitchen and entertainment items, are going to be big this holiday season. People are eating in more and also staying in rather than going to the movies. Buying an item that furthers your enjoyment of your home is an investment in future savings that most people are willing to make even in these tight times.

This would also apply to:

  • DVDs, BluRay Players, Televisions, sound systems should all see an increase this year as everyone preps their home to be their economical version of a movie theatre
  • Video game systems and games are always big at the holidays but this year should be even more so. Sure, a video game system is a big initial cost but it provides many years of fun for that price. As with the last two years, the Wii should be the biggest seller because it has the broadest demographic but expect the 1-2 punch of the X-Box with its gaming capabilities, BluRay player, up-converter DVD player AND Netflix movie watching feature to give it a big edge this year, though whether its enough to topple the Wii from its throne remains to be seen, especially since the Wii has a much smaller price tag.
  • Board Games should also be huge this year with families looking for something fun to do together without spending a lot.
  • Home Depot, Lowes and other hardware stores should also experience a surge as people look to do home improvements to raise the value of their home and the value they get from it.

FACT: People are looking for new ways to invest their money with the stock market and bank troubles.

COMMON SENSE CONCLUSION: Word of mouth in the eBay community has already verified that vintage collectibles and antiques are way up in price this season as people turn to tried and true collectibles that have consistently held their value to invest their money in instead of more traditional investments. While new items should still dominate this holiday season, older collectible items may find themselves under the Christmas tree in record numbers this year based on these trends.

FACT (or at least, so eBay would have us believe): Everyone is chasing the lowest price this season.

COMMON SENSE CONCLUSION: While I am still not convinced that lowest price is king, savings are going to be important this year. This may mean increased numbers of used items (especially in media like DVDs, video games, etc) being given as gifts as getting the best price on the item matters more than if it is brand new.

FACT: In the quest for extra cash, everyone is looking for ways to reduce their bills and other costs.

COMMON SENSE CONCLUSION: Money saving gizmos like compact fluorescent light bulbs, Food Saver /Storage Space Vacuum Sealers, and just about any energy or heat conservation product that save the consumer money off their existing bills will also be big this holiday season as people buy them not only for others but also for themselves.

What do these things mean for sellers? If you find yourself with a significant lack of sales this holiday season, take a long look at the list above and the ideas behind it. Even if what you are selling doesn’t fit into one of these categories immediately, how can you tweak your marketing to make it seem like your items do?

Durability, money saving features, functionality are all going to be big this season so if you cannot offer the lowest price, how else does your item distinguish itself? With a little creativity, once you understand the way buyers are thinking this holiday season, you can better promote your items by playing to what’s on everyone’s mind.

The biggest mistake, however, that you can make this holiday season is to change nothing. It is a very different year than any of the past years and you will need to adapt your business, in ways however small, to be able to survive.

That is a common sense conclusion right there.

(Do these conclusions go along with your own buying and selling habits so far this holiday season? Weigh in below).