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Gizmos Will Dominate Wishlists This Holiday Season: Analysts

If you've already started making your Christmas list, there's a good chance it includes one of those items.
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Got your eye on the latest iPhone, TV or smartwatch?

If you've already started making your Christmas list, there's a good chance it includes one of those items.

According to Customer Growth Partners' holiday forecast, released Thursday, sales in the consumer electronics category are expected to grow more than 4 percent this season, outpacing the firm's prediction for overall growth of 3.4 percent.

Sales of Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, a "host of new smartwatches," and the new generation, lower-cost "4K" HDTVs (otherwise known as ultra high-definition TVs), are expected to trigger the strong results.

Earlier this week, the NPD Group also identified iPhones and 4K TVs as potential sales drivers, along with cell phone accessories and blue tooth speakers. Tablet sales, on the other hand, will continue to wane and be subject to promotions, the firm said.

"The tech industry faces even more intense pricing and promotion than last year's holiday shopping season," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

But the deals won't be limited to consumer electronics. Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, said retailers that are dependent on healthy discretionary spending will find 2014 to be another challenging holiday. Apparel, in particular, will continue to lag "the already sluggish overall growth pace," and post year-over-year growth of only 2.4 percent, Johnson said.

The category's sluggish sales have already caused deep discounts among specialty apparel stores including Abercrombie & Fitch and Gap.

"Holiday shoppers in 2014 remain very cautious in their spending, and will be relentless in seeking out value," Johnson said.

Consumers' price sensitivity has lingered despite an improved jobs picture and rising incomes for higher-net-worth households. That's because these factors have been offset by declining median incomes for most Americans and "still widespread unemployment and underemployment," Johnson said.

What's more, although gasoline prices are down about 7 percent compared with last year, meat and produce prices are up by as much as 15 percent in certain categories. That puts more pressure on many consumers, as food costs account for about 15 percent of a lower- or middle-income household's budget—more than twice the amount of gasoline, Johnson said.

Overall, Customer Growth Partners is predicting retail sales will increase 3.4 percent to a record $590 billion in the November to December period. The firm's forecast excludes autos and parts, gasoline and oil, and restaurants.

"Holiday 2014 will be a marginal improvement from last year, but until real income growth resumes, Santa will be hard-pressed to fill the Christmas stockings for either consumers or retailers," Johnson said.