Looks like Americans may be weathering high gas prices better than many expected. "Both the improving job market and strengthening economy are helping consumers cope better now than during the recent economic downturn," writes Todd Hale, SVP/ Consumer & Shopper Insights at The Nielsen Company, in his latest blog.
It's not that they are not reacting, he writes, "it's just that 2011 is not 2008." Some 67% of the 27,000 people surveyed say they are combining errands to reduce their driving and control their gas spending, making trip compression the No. 1 response to pricey gasoline. Back in 2008, when gas prices soared and Nielsen conducted a similar survey, 71% said they were cutting down on driving by combining errands.
And while 45% currently say they are eating out less often at restaurants to save money, 52% said they were doing so in 2008. In this survey, 30% say they are reducing their spending to a small degree of spending, compared to 37% in the 2008 survey. The current percentages are more in line with results of the 2009 survey, when gas cost a mere $3 a gallon.
Fewer people are using shopping strategies to save money: 21% say they are shopping more at supercenters, which is down eight and five percentage points from 2008 and 2010, respectively. And just 12% say they are buying economy sizes, down four percentage points compared to 2008/2010. Only 10% say they are shopping at warehouse clubs -- a decline of three percentage points.
Still, 46% of those polled say they are looking for lower-priced gas stations more diligently.
While gas prices are expected to fall 50 cents per gallon by Memorial Day, "retailers with gas-saving promotions are in the driver's seat," Hale writes. "Those without programs need to pull other levers to offer value -- be it convenient location, value proposition or unique offerings."