Consumers Continue to Cope with High Gas Prices

The increase in gasoline prices this year continues to affect how consumers shop, but less so on how much they spend, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers and UBS Securities survey.

A total of 60 percent of survey respondents said they are reducing the frequency of their shopping due to higher fuel expenditures, but not reducing their discretionary spending over the last month on such items as clothing, shoes, jewelry, consumer electronics, beauty services, or on non-essential items. Of those consumers that scaled back on their discretionary spending, 26 percent have reduced their restaurant expenditures followed by 23 percent scaling back on travel. Entertainment spending was the third most cited area of reduction (12%) and then spending on clothing and shoes (11%), according to the survey of 1,000 households taken between June 14 and June 17.  

Nearly a year ago when this question was asked previously, the percentage reporting a more efficient shopping pattern was nearly the same (59%) as the current survey response. Last year’s survey found that restaurant spending (31%) and travel (18%) also ranked as the first and second most cited spending items due to higher fuel expenditures. However, last year, spending on clothing and shoes was more likely to be reduced (14% than this year’s 11%) than it was this year.

“Consumers continue to be resilient and adjust their shopping patterns to reduce the negative impact of high fuel prices,” said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research. “With about two-thirds of households describing themselves as more ‘efficient shoppers’—making fewer visits per store, but buying more or combining shopping trips better—as a way of coping with the higher gasoline cost. This compared with 59 percent reporting that in May 2006 and 52 percent reporting that in May 2004.”