Nielsen survey suggests slower holiday sales due to increased gas prices

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. The Nielsen Company on Monday released a survey that may account for the sluggish sales of the Holiday season—49 percent of U.S. consumers are reducing their overall spending to compensate for rising gas prices, up four points from June 2007, Nielsen reported.

Consumers are also battling high gas prices by combining shopping trips and errands (70 percent), eating out less (41 percent) and staying home more often (39 percent).

“Our research shows consumers are adjusting their spending to a significant degree in order to counterbalance rising gas prices,” stated Todd Hale, senior vice president of Consumer Shopping & Insights, Nielsen Consumer Panel Services. “Large numbers of consumers eating out less and staying home more often signal a tough year for some restaurants, but there may be an opportunity for consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers to find continued growth in healthy, at-home meal solutions and at-work meals.”

The news could be especially challenging for supercenter retailers, Hale concluded. “Discretionary spending in 2008 is likely to be a challenge for most low- and middle-income shoppers, the core supercenter shoppers,” Hale said. “Although recent store expansions mean that supercenters are closer to more shoppers, nearly a third of households still travel 11 miles or more to a supercenter, and high gas prices will likely reduce the number of quick trips these households make. Supercenter retailers will need to entice shoppers with stronger earning power who are less vulnerable to high gas prices.”

Increased fuel prices are also resulting in more coupon clipping, with 25 percent of consumers using coupons to save money, Nielsen reported, up from 20 percent in June 2007. And as many as 23 percent of consumers indicate they will buy less expensive grocery brands to deal with higher gas prices, signaling a possible boost for private label or store-brand products and lower-priced branded products.

Results are based on Nielsen Homescan survey responses from nearly 26,000 U.S. consumers, geographically and demographically representative of the total U.S. population. The survey was conducted in December 2007, when regular gas averaged $3.06.

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