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Gas Prices Still Fueling Shifts In Consumer Behavior
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Gas Prices Still Fueling Shifts In Consumer Behavior

Although the gas price rollercoaster has slowed down in recent months, and prices have returned to reasonable levels, our weakening economy is impacting how consumers are thinking about where and how they shop and buy, similar to how they claimed to be reacting when when prices were at record highs continues, according to a new survey from Nielsen.

The overall state of the economy has dropped consumer confidence to historically low levels and caused consumers to continue to reduce driving. To deal with gas prices, consumer claims in the areas of combining shopping trips and eating and entertaining at home more often are at level higher than measured when gas prices were at $4 plus.  According to the most recent Nielsen Homescan Gas Impact Study, taken in December 2008, 77 percent of respondents said that they were combining shopping trips and errands to save gas.  57 percent said that they are eating out less, an increase of 5 points since the last survey in June and July of 2008, and 50 percent are staying home more often.  And 64 percent of U.S. consumers are reducing spending, up 1 point since the June/July survey.

To reduce spending, consumers are increasingly looking to use more coupons, switch to private label or less expensive brands, shop more at Supercenters and purchase larger, economy size portions.

“The fact is that even though gas prices have declined to ‘normal’ levels, prices of other goods have increased.  The weak economy – and the nervousness it has caused most Americans – has shifted consumer behavior in ways not seen before.  However, winning manufacturers and retailers will be those who take advantage of the increased time consumers are spending at home and use the right advertising and promotions to capture shopping trips and item purchases,” said Todd Hale, senior vice president of Consumer & Shopper Insights at Nielsen.

To view a PDF of the complete presentation, click here.

The next Nielsen Gas Price Impact Survey will be conducted in June 2009.