retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Dayton Business Journal writes that “gas prices across the country continue to set new records, with stations in some states starting to charge $5 per gallon. But some oil analysts say $6 gas could happen this summer, sparking an energy crisis that would be bad for the economy ... Gas stations in states such as California, Hawaii and Florida have already started charging more than $5 per gallon in isolated cases, and CNN.com reported that a gas station in Orlando, Fla., was charging $5.69 per gallon of regular gas. That currently is the highest price per gallon in the country.”

The rapidly changing gas prices stand as a constant reminder to consumers of how precarious the nation’s economic “recovery” is; every increase in the cost of fuel is money that consumers will not be able to spend elsewhere.

Additionally, the business community needs to be concerned about what this is doing to consumer confidence, especially because the wildly fluctuating prices seem to have no relationship to reality. At a gas station a mile from my house, over a 12-hour period we watched as gas went from $4.02 per gallon to $4.09 to $4.19 and then to $4.12. And it is a safe bet that the task force named by the White House to investigating price gauging will do little in terms of instilling confidence in a shaken American public.

It is a situation that all retailers - regardless of the venue - need to integrate into their thinking. The impact is not just economic, but also psychological and even spiritual, as consumers try to rationalize the constant changes, adjust to the impact on their wallets, and figure out what their next, best steps should be.

The smart retailers - the ones with their eyes open - will be there to help them figure all this out.
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