Gas Prices Having Less Effect on Consumer Optimism This Year

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Gas Prices Having Less Effect on Consumer Optimism This Year


ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Rising gas prices are not cramping U.S. consumers’ style.

According to a survey conducted by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, a nationwide increase of 10 cents per gallon at the pump during the last month has had little effect on the mood of consumers. In fact, consumer moods actually increased slightly in September compared to the prior month, with 45 percent of NACS survey respondents stating they are optimistic about the economy.

These figures do differ regionally. Consumers in the West showed the most optimism (49 percent), much higher than those in the Northeast (40 percent). Northeast consumers also were the most likely to say gas prices will increase in the next 30 days (51 percent vs. 45 percent in the rest of the country).

For the first time since NACS introduced monthly consumer optimism surveys, those in the 18- to 34-year-old age group are the least optimistic demographic, with 42 percent exuding enthusiasm about the economy. The association also found that women, who have been less optimistic about the economy in past NACS surveys, were slightly more optimistic (45 percent vs. 44 percent) than their male counterparts in the September survey.

“From 2013 to 2015, gas price increases have almost always led to declines in optimism — and vice versa, but we have only seen that dynamic in three of the nine months this year. The extended period of low gas prices and the sustained negative political campaign probably both play a role in this change,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives.

NACS also revealed that more than two in five of the 1,100 adults surveyed (43 percent) said gas prices rose in their area in the past 30 days. In August, nearly the same number (42 percent) said they noticed prices at the pump declining.

Despite an increase in gas prices during the past month, the nationwide average price of $2.20 per regular gallon is still 19 cents per gallon cheaper than what it was in September 2015.

Alexandria-based NACS was founded in 1961. It has 2,100 retail and 1,700 supplier member companies that do business in 50 countries.