Consumers Gas Up and Go Shopping
By George Anderson
The price consumers are paying at the pump has reached record levels, but at least until now, it doesn’t appear to have had a significant impact on retail spending.
According to a study commissioned by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), 59 percent of consumers questioned said they were spending as much last month on non-essential
products as they have in the past.
The one accommodation to higher prices consumers appear to have made is fewer overall trips to the store. Forty percent say they’re making fewer trips.
Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist, told Bloomberg News that the numbers suggest people are making fewer trips but buying more or combining trips to stores. Fifty-seven
percent described themselves as being more “efficient shoppers.”
The rise in gasoline prices has, as would be expected, had a greater impact on lower-income consumers. According to the Bloomberg report, “More than half of the consumers
with income of less than $25,000 reported they were driving less, and between two thirds and three-quarters of those consumers cut back on the frequency of trips to restaurants
and shopping venues. Fifty seven percent of those households reduced their discretionary purchases, the study found.”
Moderator’s Comment: How big a threat do rising oil prices pose to the economy? Have consumers begun to see rising prices in other goods and
services because energy costs are going up? What does this mean for retailers in various trade channels? –
George Anderson – Moderator