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    Low Gas Prices to Fuel Holiday Shopping Sprees

    Consumers expect to spend more, visit c-stores on Black Friday and beyond.

    ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Due to lower gas prices, 42 percent of Black Friday shoppers expect to shop more during the holiday season, according to results of a new consumer survey released by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

    Overall, the vast majority of Americans (96 percent) likewise say they expect to shop at least as much, if not more, this holiday season than they did last year, when gas prices were approximately 70 cents more per gallon. Meanwhile, 25 percent of Americans say they expect to shop more this year than last holiday season.

    Additionally, the research found 41 percent of shoppers aged 18-34 say they are likely to spend more this year, while only 14 percent of those over the age of 50 say the same.

    Convenience store operators are likely to benefit from the increased spending, as 87 percent of holiday shoppers expect to stop at a c-store, particularly to buy gas (77 percent of all travelers and 86 percent of regular Black Friday shoppers), or to use the bathroom (half of all travelers and 51 percent of of regular Black Friday shoppers).

    Beverages will be a popular c-store item for travelers, as 46 percent expect to purchase bottled water or a soda, and 42 percent expect to purchase coffee or an energy drink in order to stay alert.

    Forty-five percent expect to buy a snack and 20 percent expect to buy a sandwich or a meal from a c-store during holiday season travel.

    Younger consumers aged 18-34 are most likely to stop at convenience stores during their holiday travels, whether to buy a snack (57 percent), a bottle of water or soda (55 percent), a coffee or energy drink (52 percent), a sandwich or meal (28 percent) or to use the ATM (25 percent), according to NACS.

    "Sales have been strong all year at convenience stores and it looks like these strong sales will continue through the holiday season, especially with millennials seeking out more fresh items in stores like salads, fruits or sandwiches," stated Jeff Lenard, NACS' vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "Consumers are optimistic about the economy and lower gas prices are contributing to this optimism."

    In addition to holiday spending, 26 percent of consumers expect to increase their overall spending in November, marking a seven-point jump over October and the highest percentage in 2015, according to the latest Consumer Fuels Survey results released by NACS on Nov. 11. In November 2014, only 21 percent of consumers expected to increase their spending during the month.

    Half of survey respondents stated they are optimistic about the U.S. economy, and for the first time since NACS began its monthly surveys in January 2013, women are more optimistic than men (51 percent vs. 50 percent, respectively). The percentage of women expressing a sense of optimism is also the highest since February. Although the observed spread is slim, men on average have been as much as 11 percentage points more optimistic than women over the past three years.

    Consumer perceptions of falling gas prices play a role in the improvement in economic optimism, reported NACS. More than four in five Americans (81 percent) and 85 percent of women say gas prices have an impact on their feelings about the economy. A majority (55 percent) of consumers say gas prices in their area are lower than they were this time last month, marking the third month in a row that consumers have reported falling gas prices. Consumers located in the Northeast are most likely to say they noticed lower prices (60 percent), while only 40 percent of those located in the Midwest say the same.

    Nationwide, consumers reported an average gas price of $2.20 per gallon, which is the lowest reported average since February's $2.10-per-gallon average.

    Overall, 30 percent of women expect to spend more in November, a sharp increase from the 20 percent who said the same one year ago.

    "The surge in optimism among women, who also tend to conduct the bulk of holiday shopping, is great news for retailers who depend on a strong holiday shopping season," Lenard said. "We expect that convenience stores also will see benefits with increased sales of snacks, drinks, fuel and fill-in items for harried shoppers."

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