What Impact Are Gas Prices Having?

Mar 31, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

When it comes to buying gas, where is more important than how much for most consumers.

David Stewart, a professor of marketing and consumer psychology at the University of Southern California, told the Christian Science Monitor, “Gasoline is what we refer to as a convenience purchase. We buy it when we need it. And most of the time, we need it when we are going about our normal course of business.”

Separate studies conducted by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and ExxonMobil found that the location of a service station was the most important factor in a consumer’s decision where to fill-up, followed by price.

Despite price being number two on the list of factors in determining where consumers buy gas, it is having an impact on other purchases.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and UBS report chain store sales were down nearly two percent for the week ending March 27.

The ICSC’s chief economist and director of research, Michael Niemira told Reuters, “Consumers report that the high gasoline prices are having a negative impact on their frequency of shopping trips, which in-turn, affects spending,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research.

Moderator’s Comment: Are gas prices beginning to have a measurable impact on retail sales beyond the pump? How high
do prices have to go before they begin to play on the American consumer’s psyche?

In our neck of the woods, people are openly beginning to grouse about the cost of filling up their tank. We have seen zero evidence to suggest that anyone,
with the possible exception of those at the very lowest end of the economic ladder, is being forced to choose gas over other retail purchases.

Anderson – Moderator

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