Looming gas prices actually could help retailers

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — To say that the impact of high prices at the pump this year is not as bad as it was in 2008 may be a testament to just how bad it was in 2008. As long as the price-per-gallon hovers above or below that magical $4, it’s still plenty bad, and there still are plenty of people who are changing shopping behaviors because of it.

(THE NEWS: Nielsen finds consumers are less worried about rising gas prices than in 2008. For the full story, click here.)

An Associated Press/GfK poll released last week determined that rising gas prices will cause “serious” hardship for as many as 41% of Americans. Almost 3-in-4 acknowledged $4-per-gallon-plus at the pump will cause at least some hardship.

But where there’s pain, there’s gain. So bad news for the consumer may not be bad at all for the savvy retailer. Instead of lamenting how promotional they may need to become, those retailers are busy figuring out how to convince their consumers that one-stop shopping, along with savings at the pump, can be had at their locations.

Such retailers as CVS/pharmacy and Weis Markets are luring customers into their respective boxes, for example, with promises of significant relief at the pump.

CVS/pharmacy is offering a $10 gas card each week for customers who spend $30 on specially marked items. For an ExtraCare cardholder who owns a sedan with a 12-gallon tank, that could represent savings of 84 cents per gallon, if not more.

And Weis Markets already offers loyalty card holders 10 cents off a gallon of gas for every $50 worth of groceries purchased. And Weis recently upped that ante by offering a $1 off per gallon of gas with a new or transferred prescription. That offer is good through July 23, or practically the entire summer, and the gas savings are redeemable at most Weis or Sheetz locations.

As of last Friday, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.886, down from $3.905 Thursday, according to AAA’s "Daily Fuel Gauge Report."

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