The big discounts certainly are a major draw, but holiday sales may also get a boost this year from the lower price of gasoline.

Wawa on Route 37 in Toms River (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)

AAA says the average price of gasoline has tumbled 49 cents from its peak this year to $3.29 a gallon, putting it on track for the lowest average since 2010.

And history shows that when gas prices drop, consumers become more likely to splurge on dinners out. Impulse buys at the mall seem like less of a stretch.

Many retail analysts have forecast a ho-hum sales gain of around 2 percent this year. Others predict a more optimistic increase of up to 3.9 percent. But some analysts say steadily cheaper gas could send holiday sales soaring above 5.4 percent.

Cheaper gas might also help shore up consumers' fragile confidence in an economic recovery that's lumbered along for 4½ years.

Lowest Gas Prices in New Jersey
New Jersey Gas Prices provided by GasBuddy.com

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)