High Hopes for Holiday Spending

Falling gas prices raise optimism for fourth quarter

holiday spending

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The prolonged drop in gas prices is raising hopes that consumers will spend more this holiday season. More than one in four (26%) consumers expect to increase their spending this month, a seven-point jump over the past month and the highest percentage this year. Last November, only 21% of consumers expected to increase their spending, according to the latest Consumer Fuels Survey results released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

Fully half of all consumers surveyed (50%) say that they are optimistic about the U.S. economy. And for the first time since NACS began its monthly surveys (January 2013), women are more optimistic than men about the economy. While the spread observed this month concerning optimism is slim (51% of females are optimistic vs. 50% of males), men on average have been as much as 11 percentage points more optimistic than women over the past three years. The percentage of women expressing a sense of optimism is also the highest since February.

Consumer perceptions of falling gas prices play a role in the improvement in economic optimism. More than four in five Americans (81%) say that gas prices have an impact on their feelings about the economy; an even higher percentage of women (85%) say that gas prices affect their economic outlook.

A majority (55%) of consumers say that gas prices in their area are lower than they were this time last month, making this the third month in a row that consumers report falling prices at the pump.

Northeast consumers are most likely to say they’ve noticed lower prices (60%), whereas only two in five (40%) in the Midwest say they’ve noticed lower prices.

Nationally, consumers report an average gas price of $2.20 per gallon, the lowest reported average since February’s average of $2.10 per gallon.

Overall, 30% of women expect to spend more this month, significantly higher than the 20% who indicated so last November.

“The surge in optimism among women, who also tend to conduct the bulk of holiday shopping, is great news for retailers who depend on a strong holiday shopping season,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. “We expect that convenience stores also will see benefits with increased sales of snacks, drinks, fuel and fill-in items for harried shoppers.”

NACS will release additional survey findings related to Thanksgiving travel and holiday shopping on Nov. 16.

NACS, which represents the convenience-store industry that sells 80% of the gas sold in the country, conducts the monthly consumer sentiment survey to gauge how gas prices affect broader economic trends. The NACS survey was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland; 1,100 gas consumers nationally were surveyed Nov. 2-4, 2015. Summary results are available at www.nacsonline.com/gasprices.

Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS (nacsonline.com) is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 152,000 stores across the country, posted $698 billion in total sales in 2014, of which $483 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.