"People feel like family members will understand a little bit more that money is tight this year," said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the retail federation.
And yes, Grannis said, expect plenty of sales.
"Everything takes a backseat to price this year," she said. "Retailers months ago sat down and put a plan together to offer deep and hard-to-pass-up promotions for the holiday season."
Don't only expect sales, but also to see retailers trying to connect with shoppers on an "emotional level." Grannis said that customers should expect more e-mails and direct mailing to their most loyal customers, offering them special sales.
"It would be very wise to get out there, comparison shop online, sign up for email, keep eyes out for coupons," she recommends.
Some consumers might wait until the last minute, hoping for the best sales. That might work, Grannis said, as retailers lower prices, but she warns it is also very risky because there is a good chance that all the good products will be long gone.
"The tricky part is that consumers might be missing out on the best merchandise because retailers have been very conservative with their inventory," she said.
This year also has five fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas "which can certainly put a dent in retailers," Grannis said. But "they are heading into this holiday season with their eyes wide open."
Anita Frazier, a toy analyst with the NPD Group, said in an e-mail that this year "there doesn't seem to be one or two hot toys but rather a group of pretty desirable items."
"Toys are one of, if not the, most traditional gift items for kids. Girls may really want clothing items for gifts, but no boy would be happy with a sweater over an action figure," she said. "That said, apparel and toys are the two most widely purchased categories for gifts."
Some parents might opt away from the latest and greatest toy and go for something from their childhood.
"I think more traditional play patterns could benefit from the rocky economy as parents find the products they themselves enjoyed as kids," Frazier said. "The nostalgia factor comes into play as these types of toys can be very comforting."
But maybe the most comforting gift of all during this season of stock market turmoil is a personal safe. That's right, ABC News' Seattle affiliate KOMO reports that fear of bank failures or even a depression has caused a spike in sales of home safes.