Consumers Ride Wave of Economic Optimism Into Holiday Season

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Consumers Ride Wave of Economic Optimism Into Holiday Season


ALEXANDRIA, Va. — More Americans are optimistic about the economy than they have been in four years of tracking consumer sentiment, according to the latest consumer survey by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

Among those consumers surveyed said they intend to drive more and spend more over the coming month, with nearly 59 percent of fuel consumers feeling optimistic about the economy. This represents a 13-point jump over the prior month, and the highest level of economic optimism reported since NACS began tracking this metric in 2013.

The increase in optimism was found across all demographics and regions, and was a stark contrast from the past seven months when a majority of American fuel consumers reported pessimistic views about the economy, NACS reported.

While the U.S. election results made headlines, declining gas prices also grabbed consumers' attention. The reported median gas price of $2.15 is a 5-cent drop from October. Three in four consumers (75 percent) said that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy.

With optimism up, gas prices down and the election over, consumers said that they will travel and spend more over the holiday season. Nearly three in 10 consumers (28 percent) said they will drive more this coming month, a 20-percent increase from this time last year, and 30 percent said they will increase their overall spending.

Other findings include:

  • More than one in three (37 percent) fuel consumers said they "always" or "sometimes" go shopping the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday.
  • Thinking about the overall economy, consumers said lower gas prices will likely influence more holiday shopping. Approximately 24 percent said they will do more holiday shopping vs. 6 percent who said they will do less.
  • 45 percent of consumers predict consumers will shop more this holiday season vs. 7 percent who predict they will shop less.
  • Consumers' average vehicle fuel efficiency increased to 24 miles per gallon, a 1-percent rise vs. one year ago.
  • Average miles per dollar also increased to 11.2 miles per dollar.

"The positive mood of the country is welcome news for convenience stores, with the increased likelihood of more food and drink sales from happy consumers on the roads over the coming week and into the holiday season," said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "Economic optimism likely surged thanks to a combination of factors: relief over the conclusion of the election, and a more certain political outlook, which in turns has helped the stock market. And there is no question that the elevated mood of the nation has been enhanced by the sustained period of lower gas prices."

NACS represents the convenience store industry that sells 80 percent of the gas in the United States. The association conducts monthly consumer surveys to gauge how gas prices affect broader economic trends. The survey was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland. From Nov. 15-18, it surveyed 1,135 U.S. adults who purchased fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month.