See big-ticket in the Cambridge Business English Dictionary.
What is it?
Big-ticket items are high-value items such cars, household appliances, home theatre systems, computers and furniture. Looking at them from the retail point of view, these items have higher profit margins and selling prices than other items. From the economic point of view they can be considered durable goods and they last a relatively long time and provide value to the owner.
Some of these items are luxury items bought with discretionary income (money left over after necessities and taxes have been paid) while others are considered to be necessities. The sales figures of big-ticket items are an indicator of the state of the economy and consumer confidence.
The term “big ticket” is also used by businesses to talk about expensive items they buy or lease for their operations. This can include machinery for a production plant or public transportation vehicles acquired governments.
Why is it in the news?
One of the indicators of how the economy is doing is consumer confidence. When consumers feel optimistic they tend to spend more money on big-ticket items as well as other goods and services, which can act as a stimulus for the economy. When they are pessimistic, on the other hand, they tend to save money and it does not enter the market. As the financial crisis has affected markets world-wide, economists and business leaders are extremely interested in raising both consumer confidence levels and sales figures.
How can I use it in class?
1 Put these phrases on the board. Ask students to talk in pairs about what they think the phrases mean and how they are related to retail sales and big-ticket items.
a. adverse weather conditions
b. ahead of the rise of VAT
c. like-for-like sales
d. volatile trading conditions
e. white goods
f. reserve for store collection
2 Ask students to read the first article from the BBC website (Dixons, Halfords and Home Retail Group see sales slide) to check their answers. Then discuss the meaning of the terms.
1 Do you really think that sales before the holidays were affected by bad weather? Would this happen where you live?
2 Do people try to buy more good before a price increase or a higher tax? Can you really save money this way? Do you have VAT in your country and does it affect sales?
3 How often do you buy big-ticket items? What was the last one you bought?
Where can I read about it?
- Dixons, Halfords and Home Retail Group see sales slide, BBC, January 13th 2011
- Is the VAT increase regressive?, BBC, January 4th 2011
- German Factory Orders Declined in December After Surge, Bloomberg, February 7th 2011
a. bad weather
b. before the raise in Value Added Tax (in the UK from 17.5% to 20% on January 4th 2011)
c. comparing this year’s sales figures to last year’s figures by looking at the same activities from year to year.
d. uncertain conditions, not very stable
e. heavy consumer durables or appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, air conditioners. (Brown goods are the light electronic consumer durables such as radios, TVs, computers and music systems.)
f. ordering on line and asking the shop to keep the item for you – you then have to pick it up