The "big ticket" item is American slang for those goods that usually have a high value and may be considered as luxury goods. People who watch economic trends in the retail market sometimes call them BTIs. For instance, an economist might note in an economically depressed period that sales of luxury items decline. In a period when the economy is stable or growing, you might note greater sales totals for big ticket items.
There are many things that can be called a big ticket item. They don’t necessarily have to be bigger in size to be higher in cost. For instance, a small laptop computer that is the latest product might be considered to be such an item. Other luxury items are more expensive because they are bigger. Luxury cars, private airplanes, and second residences are some of the largest of big ticket items, with the highest prices.
Many other big ticket item types are more modest. For instance, an iPod® or a Blackberry® may be considered big ticket in certain markets. Most computers, and certainly things like home surround sound systems, and plasma and high definition televisions are big ticket.
There’s no specific price demarcation for what makes an item big ticket. In a store that sells varied types of merchandise, most of the higher priced goods would be considered BTIs. Managers may emphasize to salespeople the importance of selling a big ticket item when they can, since this tends to maximize profits.
In an auto dealership, the difference between a simple car and a big ticket item may amount to those cars that are more expensive models, and have more customized features. Some people might look at all new automobiles and consider them big ticket, but in most cases, a Hyundai® is going to be a lot smaller of a ticket than a brand new Jaguar®.
Mostly, the big ticket item doesn’t refer to something you need, but rather something extra. In most cases, nobody needs a television screen that covers an entire wall of your house. It might be nice, but it is a luxury. On the other hand, you usually do need things like a refrigerator, a stove and a washer and dryer. Though these might be considered big ticket items within a store, only the most expensive ones with extra features are truly luxuries. For instance, you can pay 300 US dollars (USD) for a washing machine, or pay 1000 USD for a front-loading one that is energy efficient. It’s a nice upgrade, but not a necessary one, hence the bigger ticket status.