Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fueling a Shopping Binge

The last two weekends have been the busiest I have seen in years in my local area in Pennsylvania, aside from Black Friday and the days before storms. If measured by the number of cars in commercial neighborhoods and the number of people in stores, these two weekends have been busier than any of last month’s pre-Christmas weekends. It can only be the effect of lower gasoline prices making shoppers feel that they can afford a shopping trip.

I bought gasoline yesterday myself. Imagine my surprise when I filled my tank for less than $20. I don’t remember that happening in the last 10 years. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that I can drive around more freely than I did last year. It is also hard to imagine that the low prices could last very long. Financially, it is the equivalent of every store having a sale at the same time. It is no wonder the stores were crowded.

This will surely take sales away from online retail, which won’t get the orders for the products that shoppers buy locally. Their time will come around again, though. It was after gasoline prices fell below $2.45 per gallon that shoppers reacted. No one expects fuel prices to stay that low indefinitely. Indeed, it is partly the thought that the low fuel prices are temporary that is encouraging shoppers to take action now.