Even though the percentage of gasoline consumers expressing optimism about the economy fell in February 2018 compared to January, the numbers remain ahead of those for February 2017. According to new survey data from the convenience and fuel retailing association NACS, 60% of gas consumers reported being somewhat or very optimistic about the overall economy in February 2018, down from 65% in January.
Back in February 2017, only 57% expressed this level of economic optimism, but the percentage had risen to 61% by Q4 2017.
NACS attributed February’s confidence decline to a turbulent stock market compounded by a 9-cent increase in the median price of gas, which rose from $2.50 to $2.59. The association conducts monthly surveys related to economic issues and consumer sentiment to learn how consumers shop for fuel, what affects their buying decisions and what it means in a broader economic context.
Almost one-quarter of consumers (24%) reported that they are likely to drive more in the coming 30 days, up five percentage points compared to February 2017, and 70% will drive about the same amount.
“Consumers are still very optimistic in general, but there are some early warning signs for retailers,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS VP of Strategic Industry Initiatives in a statement. “The question on the minds of most c-store operators today is whether increased traffic will lead to increased sales inside the store.”
In a new question designed to estimate how gas prices would affect future consumer spending, NACS found that the majority of gas consumers (59%) expected to spend about the same amount on typical non-gas household purchases such as groceries and clothing, while 22% anticipated spending more and 19% predicting they would spend less.
In another new question, more than half of gas consumers (56%) expected to eat out “about the same” as last month, but almost one-third (32%) anticipated they would dine out less often.