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The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) has released a new report suggesting that “gasoline prices affect overall spending behavior more than any other economic factor – including the slowdown in the economy and the meltdown in the financial markets.”

According to the report, “The lone good economic news for consumers over the past six months has been a huge drop in gas prices, yet 59 percent of consumers say that high gas prices have a ‘very significant’ effect on their spending behavior, substantially above the 45 percent who said the same in the 2008 consumer survey. To a much lesser extent, consumers said they were concerned about a slowdown in the national economy or a recession (41 percent), rising food costs and rising home energy costs (each 31 percent) and the credit crunch and lending crisis (21 percent).

“Even with gas prices at the beginning of 2009 approximately $1.40 per gallon below last year’s levels, consumers remain incredibly price sensitive, with 70 percent saying that price is the most important factor in deciding where to purchase gas, and more than half of all consumers (51 percent) reporting that they will drive 10 minutes out of their way to save as little as 5 cents per gallon.”

One interesting note from the report – consumers have no idea how much profit retailers make when they sell gasoline, and in fact generally think that gas stations generate about four times as much profit as they actually do.

KC's View:
It is amazing when you see a line of cars waiting at gas stations where they are charging a few cents less than other nearby stations, but not hugely surprising. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t believe that the dip in gas prices is the anomaly, and that it won’t be long before we see them spike again…and that this time, they’ll go even higher than last summer.

That’s why when we have to replace the Murano later this year when the lease runs out, I’m thinking Mini Cooper. That 36 miles-per-gallon looks really attractive…though the winter weather this year has given me a little pause.