Consumer Response to Gas Prices Less Severe than ’08

May 20, 2011

nielsen-gas-price-actions-may-2011.JPGIn spring 2011, US consumers have adjusted to a new spending reality as a result of high gas prices, but actions taken to cut down on spending habits, such as eating out less, buying less expensive grocery brands and doing more things at home are less prevalent compared to the summer of 2008, according to data collected by The Nielsen Company.

Trip Compression Most Popular Response

Sixty-seven percent of consumers say they are combining errands and trips as a result of high gas prices. This is 14% lower than the 78% who did so in June 2008, the last time gas prices averaged around $4 per gallon.

Seeking lower-priced gas stations (46%) and eating out less (45%) are the next-most-popular money-saving strategies. While Nielsen did not collect data on seeking lower-priced gas stations in June 2008, the percentage of consumers eating out less has dropped 13% from 52% in June 2008.

Doing more things at home (40%) has dropped more than 20% in popularity from June 2008, when 51% of consumers pursued this strategy. Interestingly, the percentage of consumers using more coupons in April (36%) was 12.5% higher than in June 2008 (32%).

Shop-to-Save Strategies Decline

One in five households (21%) say they are reducing spending to a great degree, which is down from one in four (26%) in 2008. Also in decline are saving strategies consumers deploy to lower costs. For example, 21% say they are shopping more at supercenters, which is down almost 28% from 29% in June 2008.

Currently, 12% say they are buying larger economy sizes, down 25% from 16% in 2008, and 10% say they are shopping at warehouse clubs, down 23% from 13% in 2008. In addition, 28% of consumers say they are using their grocery shopper loyalty cards to save up to 10, 20 and 30 cents on a gallon of gas by redeeming points at participating gas stations.

Varying Factors Lessen Severity of Gas Prices

nielsen-gas-price-impact-may-2011.JPGNielsen cites several economic factors it says make the 2011 gas price crisis less severe than that of 2008. While consumers faced rising gas and commodity prices in both years, this year retailers are not as likely to accept supplier prices. In addition, unlike 2008 unemployment is not currently rising, and currently the economy is seeing growth, as are the financial market and discretionary retail spending.

Nielsen Advises Targeting At-home Consumers

With two out of three households saying they are combining errands to reduce their driving and control their gas spending, Nielsen says some retailers and manufacturers will feel more pain than others. Nielsen advises that eating out less and continued interest in at-home and value-oriented activities is a sure sign that it is time to promote product solutions and merchandising activities to capture sales from at-home consumption.

Nielsen recommends that manufacturers and retailers should offer consumers meal deals, recipe ideas, at-home entertainment options and tips and tricks for at-home personal care and in-home cleaning products.

Gallup: Gas Prices Affect Consumer Behavior

The slight majority of Americans (53%) say they have responded to today’s steep gas prices by making major changes in their personal lives, while 46% say they have not, according to results of a May 2011 USA Today/Gallup poll. Sizable proportions of adults of all major income levels have made such changes, including 68% of low-income Americans, 54% of middle-income Americans, and 44% of upper-income Americans.

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