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High Gas Prices Influencing How Consumers Shop and Spend: ACNielsen

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- Record high gasoline prices are leading large numbers of consumers to change how they shop and spend their income, with many people combining errands, eating out less often, and doing more at home, according to the findings from a new survey from ACNielsen, the leading provider of consumer and marketplace information.

The high price of fuel is affecting different consumer segments to varying degrees, with a higher proportion of low-income households than affluent households stating that they are using coupons more often (23 percent of low-income households vs. 14 percent of affluent households), buying less expensive brands of groceries (20 percent vs. 10 percent), opting for a lower grade of gasoline (19 percent vs. 12 percent), and reducing spending in other areas "to a great degree" (15 percent vs. 5 percent).

Meanwhile, a higher proportion of affluent households than poor households are shopping more in warehouse club stores (9 percent of affluent households vs. 6 percent of poor households) and on the Internet (7 percent vs. 3 percent).

Not surprisingly, the affluent segment has the highest percentage of households (26 percent) claiming that higher fuel prices have had no impact on their driving and spending habits.

Todd Hale, ACNielsen s.v.p., consumer insights, pointed out that gas prices have gone up even further since the survey was conducted in June and July. "With the added economic uncertainty created by the disaster in New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast, you can be sure that there are even more people now looking for ways to conserve fuel and reduce overall spending."

As the impact of Hurricane Katrina ripples through the economy, putting further pressure on the price of fuel and other items, Hale said the consumer packaged goods industry needs a multi-faceted response.

"The most important need right now, of course, is for continued donations of products and cash," he said. "But there will be a longer-term impact as well, with opportunities for one-stop-shop retailers like supercenters and warehouse club stores to win the ongoing business of customers who are visiting their stores for the first time and for supermarket operators to play up the convenience of their store locations and the value of their take-home meals. Lastly, the fact that many consumers are doing more at home should spell opportunity for manufacturers whose products can enhance the at-home entertainment experience."

The ACNielsen survey polled 37,000 members of its Homescan consumer panel. Currently totaling 91,500 households, Homescan is in the midst of its "Mega Panel" initiative, which will grow the panel to an industry-leading 125,000 households by the end of October.
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