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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Fuel consumers' economic optimism reaches record heights this holiday season. More than half of consumers (60 percent) feel hopeful about the economy, a 1-point increase over November, according to the latest consumer survey by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
Younger consumers and consumers who live in the South report the highest levels of optimism, tied at 64 percent, which is largely consistent across all demographics, NACS noted.
This heightened hopefulness is driving consumers to go out and spend more than in previous holiday seasons. One in three consumers (33 percent) said they will be spending more money this month on non-fuels purchases. This is significantly higher than December 2015 (27 percent) and December 2014 (24 percent). Consumers ages 18-34 also anticipate spending more this month (42 percent).
Lower gas prices play a major role in the increased optimism. Three in four drivers (78 percent) said that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy, including 84 percent of consumers ages 18-34. Nationally, gas prices peaked for the year in June, reaching $2.38 per gallon.
Thanks to lower gas prices, fuel consumers also intend to drive more this December (27 percent) vs. December 2015 (22 percent).
Other findings include:
- Despite strong optimism, consumers are concerned with rising gas prices in the future. More than one in three (38 percent) said prices increased month over month.
- More than half of consumers (52 percent) believe that gas prices will be higher in 30 days than they are today.
- Gas prices rose from $2.15 to $2.19 per gallon over the past three weeks nationwide.
- Although gas prices are 19 cents per gallon higher than December 2015 ($2), they are significantly lower than they were in December 2014 ($2.70) and December 2013 ($3.29).
- Average miles per dollar remained steady at 11.1 miles per dollar.
"Economic optimism is continuing into the holiday shopping and travel season," said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "This continued optimism as we head into 2017 is good news for retailers across the country — and especially for convenience store retailers who will offer food and fuel for holiday shoppers and travelers."
NACS represents the convenience store industry that sells 80 percent of the gas in the United States. The association conducts monthly consumer surveys to gauge how gas prices affect broader economic trends. The survey was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland. From Dec. 6-9, it surveyed 1,124 U.S. adults who purchased fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month.