Carrie Czerwinski doesn’t get out shopping very often.
So when she’s out buying Christmas presents and something catches her eye, she tends to grab it for herself.
“I have a ‘one for you, one for me’ philosophy,” said Czerwinski, of East Amherst.
She’s not alone.
Up to 66 percent of shoppers said they will splurge on themselves when shopping for others this holiday season, according to a survey by Discover Card.
It’s a phenomenon that has been dubbed “self-gifting,” and retailers love it.
“Even if it’s just an extra $5 added to a sale, that helps our day,” said Casey Hartly, owner of Buffalo Fleece and Outerwear on Elmwood Avenue.
Merchants know the temptation to self-gift is there and do everything they can to encourage consumers to indulge.
For Hartly, it’s putting smaller, personal items at eye level and near the cash register – things like candles and gloves they can easily tack on to their purchase when the impulse grabs them – or asking, “How about another one for yourself?” when wrapping up their merchandise.
Other retailers encourage self-gifting by hyping sales around items that would traditionally not be considered gift items, such as vacuum cleaners and cosmetics.
Others skip the subliminal route, bluntly advising consumers to splurge.
“Retailers construct ad messages that are explicitly designed to capitalize on and leverage the trend of self-gifting,” said Charles Lindsey, who teaches marketing at the University at Buffalo’s School of Management. “Retailers feature a ‘gift yourself’ section on their websites and run ‘gift yourself’ ads.
A Body Shop advertorial in Good Housekeeping magazine urges shoppers to “indulge yourself this Christmas,” while J. Crew invites you to “Get what you really want.”
Jewelry company Nearly Naked tries to alleviate potential self-gifting guilt with an “everybody’s doing it” approach.
“We all buy something for ourselves when holiday shopping,” an ad on its website reads. “After all, that’s half the fun of gift shopping!”
A website geared toward independent fashion designers offers a how-to guide, teaching businesses how to capitalize on the self-gifting trend.
“Are you marketing your brand for self-gifting?” asks StartupFashion.com.
Tips include offering buy one, get one deals; reminding shoppers how many parties they’ll have to attend (and will need new dresses for); and focusing on the stress of the holiday season.
“Tell your customers how much they deserve a new leather tote to make all that running around a whole lot easier,” the site suggests.
And it works.
“I guess the rule is you shouldn’t buy anything for yourself before Christmas,” said Mary Jane Mauro, of Niagara Falls. “But if you wait and come back for it, it’s gone. I learned that lesson the hard way.”
Consumers consider it a more efficient way to shop, they said, bundling personal shopping tasks with holiday shopping.
Besides, deals offered this time of year are just too good to pass up, consumers said.
“If it’s something you come across and it’s a good deal, why not?” said Lori Kendzia of Niagara Falls. “You’re already in the store, and they have it in your size.”
Still, the term “self-gift” rankles some, with its suggestion that consumers are being somehow greedy or selfish.
Indeed, self-gifters like Czerwinski tend to feel bashful about admitting to what she calls “a bad habit.”
“But I don’t go out a whole lot the rest of the year, so the only time I see stuff is when I’m out looking for other people,” she said.
As far as retailers are concerned, self-gifting doesn’t make you a Grinch – it makes you a hero.
Self-gifters are expected to spend an average of $129.62 on items for themselves, according to the National Retail Federation.
It’s enough to make or break the holiday shopping season, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for market research firm the NPD Group.
The number of people consumers have on their shopping list doesn’t vary much from year to year. What does fluctuate is their willingness to spend a little extra on themselves, and that’s an important indicator of America’s retail health during the industry’s most crucial season.
“Whether the consumer wants to take advantage of a sale, reward herself for finding such a good bargain or even has a touch of gifting envy, the willingness of the shopper to push her budget beyond what she had originally planned is a key influencer for holiday growth,” Cohen said in NPD’s annual holiday spending report.