Big Finish for Summer Drive Sales?

A recent survey suggests that consumers plan to drive and spend more before the end of the season.

August 21, 2018

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Good news for c-stores in tourist destinations: Americans say that they are ready to increase spending and driving over the last two weeks of summer drive-season, according to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey findings.

One in four Americans (24%) say they will drive more—compared to only 8% who will drive less. In addition, more than one in five (21%) say that they will spend more on non-fuel items this month. Both numbers are considerably more than the start of the summer drive season in May when 18% of Americans said they would drive more in the coming month and 16% said they would spend more in the coming month.

NACS, which represents the convenience store industry that sells an estimated 80% of the fuel sold in the United States, has conducted regular surveys related to economic issues and consumer sentiments since January 2013.

Gas prices likely are a main contributor to the increase in travel—and potential concerns about future spending.

Overall, 63% of American drivers say that they are optimistic about the economy, a three-point jump from the 60% who expressed optimism in May. And nearly four in five consumers (79%) cite gas prices as affecting their feelings about the economy.

There also are some signs that consumers could hold back their spending in the coming months. A majority of consumers (58%) say that they noticed that gas prices have increased over the past month and overall they have increased 5 cents per gallon since May. Drivers also expect prices to continue to climb: 48% expect prices to increase over the next month, compared to the 42% who said that gas prices would climb last August.

“The three factors that most affect driving and sales are weather, economic sentiment and gas prices—and all three are in a positive place as the summer ends. But this report also suggests some softness in consumer sentiment that bears watching. Last fall, similar positive feelings about spending and travel shifted dramatically following the devastation of the hurricanes and the resulting impact on fuel supply and demand,” said NACS Director of Government Relations Paige Anderson, who oversees many of the association’s motor fuels issues.

The survey was conducted online by PSB; 1,500 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month were surveyed August 7-10, 2018. For a summary of the August 2018 NACS Consumer Fuels Report, visit the NACS Fuels Center