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    Study: Consumers Adjusting to Higher Prices at the Pump

    NRF survey finds shoppers might cut back on driving, other expenses.

    WASHINGTON -- While consumers have seemed resilient in the face of higher energy costs, a tipping point may soon be in sight. According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2006 Gas Prices Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, 76 percent of consumers believe fluctuating gas prices have impacted their spending habits, up from 67.2 percent in 2005 and 56.8 percent in 2004. The survey will be featured in the June issue of STORES Magazine.

    Consumers say they will find a variety of ways to cope with higher prices. Most (44.8 percent) say they will simply drive less. Additionally, 37.2 percent of those surveyed say they plan to decrease vacation and/or travel; 36.2 percent will cut back on dining out; while only 22.2 percent will delay a major purchase, such as a car or television. Also, 8 percent of respondents say they will carpool, almost double the amount from the previous year (4.5 percent).

    While the luxury market has been particularly immune to the rise in gas prices, new evidence suggests that even the recession-proof shopper may start pulling in the reins. According to the study, 69.3 percent of affluent shoppers (with household incomes of $50,000 or higher) concede that gas prices are negatively affecting spending, compared to 59.1 percent in 2005.

    "Higher prices at the pump act as a tax on disposable income. As prices continue to rise, it is inevitable that consumer spending will be affected," said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. "Consumers will be looking for retailers that provide the best return for their dollar. This clearly gives the advantage to discounters, warehouse clubs and online retailers over department stores and mall-based retailers."

    The NRF 2006 Gas Prices Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to an increase in the cost of gasoline. The poll of 7,388 consumers was conducted from May 3-10. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

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