Following three straight months of rising pessimism, consumers today report feeling better about the economy, according the latest monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey that examines how gas prices affect consumer sentiment.
Overall, consumers feel more optimistic than they have since August, and that bodes well for retailers of all types seeking strong holiday sales to end the year on a positive note.
The national survey of drivers is conducted every month to measure the effect gas prices have on consumer sentiment. An analysis of the 2013 to date has shown that price fluctuations (increases or decreases) have had a greater impact than overall prices when it comes to consumer sentiment. Consumer sentiment has regularly followed price movement this year, and in November a nearly 10-cent drop in gas prices contributed to a five-point drop in consumer pessimism.
The decrease in gas prices is nurturing optimism about gas prices in the near future. For the second month in a row, a majority of consumers (58%) believe that gas prices will be lower 30 days from now. Only 43% of consumers say that gas prices will be higher next month, a big decrease from July when a year-high 64% said they thought that prices would increase.
“Changes in gas prices clearly play a critical role in affecting consumer sentiment,” said NACS Vice President of Government Relations John Eichberger. “Gas prices have decreased more than 35 cents per gallon in the past three months and we are happy to see that positive news at the pump is having a great impact on consumer optimism.”
Every month, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) conducts a nationwide survey in partnership with Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC to measure consumer perceptions about gas prices and how they relate to broader economic conditions. For the November survey, 804 gas consumers were surveyed from Nov. 5-6, 2013. The margin of error for the entire sample is +/-3.39 at the 95% confidence interval and higher for subgroups. The OPIS weekly national average price for gas was $3.265 on Nov. 4, the week in which the survey was fielded.