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Rising Gas Prices Cut Consumer Spending

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Despite a recent drop in gas prices, consumers continue to alter their spending to compensate for high numbers at the pump, according to the National Retail Federation 2005 Gas Prices Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch.

The study reports more than half (66.2 percent) of consumers, or 145.3 million Americans, believe that fluctuating gas prices impacted their spending habits, up from 56.8 percent in 2004.

"While shoppers seem to be getting over the initial sticker shock, gas prices have taken a long-term toll on consumers, many of whom have had to adjust their spending to compensate for the increases," said Tracy Mullin, NRF president and CEO. "Every penny spent on gasoline is a penny kept from retailers, so this is also a very real problem for our industry."

According to the survey, 68.5 million people (31.2 percent of consumers) decreased vacation or travel plans as a result of gas prices. People have also been dining out less frequently (25.2 percent), reducing the amount of money they spend on clothing (23.7 percent) and spending less on groceries (17.3 percent). In addition, 35.9 million consumers (16.4 percent) have delayed major purchases such as cars and furniture as a result of higher gas prices, the report stated.

Whether gas prices pose a fiscal or psychological concern, consumers are affected regardless of income. Two-thirds (69.9 percent) of consumers with household incomes under $50,000 say they have felt an impact from rising gas prices, and more than half of consumers (58.2 percent) with household incomes over $50,000 say have also been affected.

"High gas prices have become a way of life for consumers, and they are adjusting as much as they can," said Phil Rist, vice president of strategy for BIGresearch. "Shoppers seem to be primarily bypassing restaurants and clothing stores in order to compensate for spending more at the pump."

Only 35.1 percent of consumers polled said that gas prices would affect their Memorial Day spending. This is slightly down from last year, when 38.5 percent of consumers said that increased gas prices would impact their spending over Memorial Day weekend in 2004.

The NRF 2005 Gas Prices Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to an increase in the cost of gasoline. The poll of 8,155 consumers has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.
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