Price Beats All

Remains top factor in choice of fueling location, says NACS

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Price remains the dominant reason why consumers buy fuel at a particular location, according to the results from the new 2012 NACS Consumer Fuels Report. Nearly two-thirds of consumers (63%) rated price as the most important reason why they select a particular location for fueling, more than triple any other reason.

NACS released findings from the 2012 NACS Consumer Fuels Report as part of the association's annual Retail Fuels Report, which examines conditions and trends that could impact gasoline prices. This is the fourth time in the past six years that NACS has surveyed consumers, providing insights on how consumers shop for gasoline, what changes their behavior, how they perceive the convenience store industry and how they feel about alternative energy and vehicles.

Of customers citing gasoline prices as their primary reason for shopping at a specific store, they overwhelmingly said that the reason they select a location is because of the posted price. Of those saying that they shopped on price, two-thirds of consumers (66%) said that they made up their minds where to buy while already in their cars, as opposed to preplanning their visit.

"These findings show what most retailers already know: Loyalty at the pump only lasts until the next fillup, and retailers must compete furiously for an uncommitted customer," said NACS vice president of government relations John Eichberger. "And consumer awareness of gas prices as part of their daily travels may help fuel their frustration over price increases because they are constantly surveying the landscape and monitoring prices."

NACS also examined how much consumers will change their behavior to save even a few cents per gallon by driving across the street, driving up to 10 minutes out of their way or paying by cash inside the store. Even at a savings of only a penny per gallon, nearly a quarter of all consumers (23%) would change their behavior.

The group annually releases its Retail Fuels Report every February 2. The first week of February traditionally marks the beginning of the spring transition to summer-blend fuels for the petroleum industry. Since 2000, gasoline prices have increased, on average, more than 50 cents between the first week in February and the time of the seasonal high price, typically late May.

The petroleum markets experience similar conditions on an annual basis.

"Our annual Retail Fuels Report is a critical communications tool to advocate on behalf of the industry, and it may be particularly important in 2012 as we begin the year with gas prices already at seasonal highs" said Eichberger. "Transparency is the key to understanding the motor fuels market, and we encourage retailers to share this information with key opinion-makers in their markets, whether state officials, reporters or customers."

For more than a decade, NACS has developed its annual Retail Fuels Report to explain market conditions, especially as they relate to price swings, and has shared this information with Congress, key media contacts and other opinion leaders throughout the country. The goal is to educate the general public by demystifying the retail fueling industry by examining who sells fuels and how it is sold. This year, NACS has added a number of new elements. In addition to the results from the Consumer Fuels Report, other new elements explain how branded stations operate and how Brent oil has become the new benchmark for retail prices.

Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 148,000 stores across the country, posted $575 billion in total sales in 2010, of which $385 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,200 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies that do business in nearly 50 countries.