When Judy Archer of Issaquah went holiday shopping this year, she found the perfect gift for her daughter — a Spode Christmas tree cracker-and-cheese tray. Archer and her daughter...

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When Judy Archer of Issaquah went holiday shopping this year, she found the perfect gift for her daughter — a Spode Christmas tree cracker-and-cheese tray.

Archer and her daughter collect the traditional, festive-patterned china, but after bringing it home, she had second thoughts.

“She’ll never see it,” Archer, 56, said with a chuckle. “I think, when I die, she’ll inherit it.”

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If love thy neighbor is a long-held holiday tradition, shoppers this year have also remembered to love thyself.

The average consumer is expected to spend $702.03 on the holidays, and more than half plan to unload 12.7 percent of that on themselves, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2004 holiday consumer survey.

If self-gifting isn’t a new trend, it’s indeed a growing one, said retail strategist Richard Outcalt of Seattle-based Outcalt and Johnson.

Outcalt attributes the shift to baby boomers whose children have begun to leave the nest.

Unlike the generation that preceded it, this one is being reborn as SINKs (single income, no kids) and DINKs (double income, no kids), with lots of disposable income and the willingness to spend it.

“These are the people who take care of their obligations at holiday time, but they don’t ever forget themselves,” Outcalt said. “They’re acting the way they’ve always acted.”

Many U.S. retailers cut prices last week after experiencing slower holiday sales, but upscale retailers have experienced strong demand.

At upscale retailer Nordstrom, the holiday season tends to bring in shoppers who don’t normally buy in their stores, so they tend to pick up a little something as a reward, spokeswoman Brooke White said.

But even Nordstrom employees find themselves buying a little something extra, White said. One employee said she was buying a gift in the fashion jewelry department when the salesperson showed her a new cocktail ring.

“The salesperson suggested it would be fun for New Year’s Eve,” White said. “She bought it hook, line and sinker.”

Baby boomers may have helped spur the sale of luxury goods, but they aren’t the only ones to drive holiday sales. Of consumers who self-gift, men and young adults plan to spend the most on themselves — men, $116.87 and young adults, $114.69, the retail federation survey said.

At Olivine in Ballard, which sells the world-famous Hanky Panky thong, owner Julie Merriman said she’s seen more shoppers buy for themselves in recent years.

“They’re not little candles and things,” said Merriman, whose store attracts the 28- to 40-year-old set. “They’re buying new jeans, T-shirts, dresses and bags. People are enjoying themselves right now.”

If self-gifting is on the rise, a party dress pales compared with one of the season’s hottest gifts. Retail analysts expect strong demand for consumer electronics, particularly plasma-screen and liquid crystal display, or LCD, television sets, as prices have dropped.

Jason Templeman, general manager of Best Buy at Northgate, said that he’s seen strong demand for television sets at his store, although he attributes the popularity to families entertaining and looking forward to the Super Bowl.

“I think, more than anything, it’s timing,” Templeman said. “Christmas gives you another excuse to buy.”

Or an alternative.

“What shoppers really want this holiday season is world peace,” Outcalt said. “But instead, they’re buying a plasma TV.”

Monica Soto Ouchi: 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com