American consumers are on "tenterhooks," said William Lauder, executive chairman of cosmetics maker Estee Lauder.
"The consumer is back with a certain level of confidence...but if (consumers are) given an excuse, (they'll) pull back," Lauder told CNBC.
According to Lauder, American consumers are "more binary" than consumers in other countries. They tend to be either "in" or "out."
Long lines of people camping out to buy Apple's latest iPhone show that consumers are willing to buy the items that they want, but Lauder expects retailers have to make the products worth it for them.
Lauder also said he rejects the idea that there can be a "global" consumer.
"The consumer is very local," Lauder said.