Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

Gas Price Inflation Hits Retail Foot Traffic: What Will Be the Ripple Effect?

R.J. Hottovy
March 28, 2022
Gas Price Inflation Hits Retail Foot Traffic: What Will Be the Ripple Effect?

Although the gas price hike has finally slowed down, the national average price per gallon is still up 71.5 cents from a month ago and $1.37 per gallon higher than a year ago. We dove into the foot traffic data to find out how rising gas prices and elevated food prices are impacting retail visitation trends. 

Steep Decline in Overall Retail Visits 

Over the week of March 7th, nationwide overall retail visits declined by 4.3% compared to the equivalent week three years ago – the most severe decline in weekly retail foot traffic over the past twelve months that wasn’t directly tied to COVID waves or holiday calendar shifts. And while visits the week of March 14th bounced back somewhat (more on that below), the downward shift remains evident. So although consumers had largely shrugged off price inflation over the past several months – perhaps due to mass merchants and larger format grocers’ willingness to keep price increases in check – the spike in gas prices appears to be having a marked impact.

Should current trends continue, the rise in retail gas prices is likely to continue to weigh on overall retail traffic – particularly on those retailers that have greater exposure to lower-income consumers where gas makes up a higher percentage of household budgets.

Implications for Consumer Spending

Inflation is now simultaneously hitting three of consumers' basic necessities – food, gas, and housing (via elevated rent inflation) – with rising gas prices likely to impact foot traffic across many retail channels. Below, we’ve shown year-over-year foot traffic trends for the grocery, superstores (including warehouse clubs and mass merchants like Walmart and Target), and discount and dollar stores. 

So far, there has not been a meaningful shift between shopping channels. Each of these categories had been running solidly ahead of year over year visitation trends the past six months, but now find themselves at low-single-digit increases. In other words, the foot traffic data shows that visits for all three analyzed categories have been adversely affected, so consumers don’t seem to be trading down from mass merchants and grocery stores in favor of dollar stores.

Historically, large increases in retail gas prices over a short period of time have disrupted retail visitation trends, so it’s not surprising to see the deceleration in foot traffic across several retail categories the past few weeks after the record increase in U.S. retail gas prices. In the past, however, consumers have been relatively quick to adjust to higher gas prices which has usually led to a fast recovery in visits to staple retailers – often at the expense of other discretionary categories. This may also explain the slight uptick in retail visits the week of March 14th. As gas prices continue to fluctuate, we will continue to monitor visitation trends for changes in consumer behavior. One potential impact is a return to mission driven shopping trends that buoy retailers with a wider array of goods driving larger basket sizes during longer visits at the expense of absolute visit numbers.

Gas Station Visitation Trends 

For additional context, we’ve also examined gas station visitation trends. According to our Nationwide Gas Station Index, which includes almost 50,000 gas station chains across the United States, overall visits to gas stations have also decreased over the past several weeks. While continued work-and school-from-home trends may nullify some of the impacts of higher gas prices, the decrease in gas station foot traffic may also have implications in terms of broader consumer spending patterns. 

First, rising gas prices could cause consumers to consolidate their shopping trips, which would favor superstores and large-format grocers and may even bring a return of mission-driven shopping behaviors. Second, as consumers become more selective with their shopping trips and consciously limit their gas expenditures, trade areas may start to shrink. Many retailers saw their trade areas expand over COVID even as their overall visit numbers fell due to an increase in unique visitors. Retailers that have invested in their omnichannel capabilities – thereby saving consumers shopping trips – and digital marketing functionality such as mobile ordering and personalized marketing efforts stand to retain a number of visitors acquired during COVID.

Costco Positioned to Benefit

While gas price inflation can negatively impact retail visitation trends, not everyone stands to lose – low-cost gas options tend to benefit when gas prices rise quickly. Costco, which operates almost 640 gas stations in North America, has long had a reputation for having the cheapest gas in the retail category. Foot traffic data indicates that Costco Gasoline bucked the trend and saw a meaningful acceleration in year-over-year visitation trends this past week. As elevated gas prices drive consumers to consolidate their shopping trips and turn towards one-stop-shops, Costco seems well positioned to benefit twice from the current situation. 

For more data-driven retail insights, visit 

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
4 Strategies Retailers are Using to Drive Traffic to Their Venues
5 Key Regional Grocery Players Impressing in 2023
Upscale Kitchenware Trending Up
Costco Finds More Room for Growth
Four C-Store Chains Making an A-Grade
National Parks + Outdoor Summer Activities
Diving Into Darden: Summer 2023 Update
The Summer Event Effect
Messi: Massive in Miami
Looking Back on Back to School 2023
The Anchor Recap: August 2023 Office Index: August 2023 Recap Mall Index: August 2023 Recap White Paper Recap: August 2023
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Strikes Again
Big Scoop: We All Scream For Ice Cream
Sports Away: Lululemon & Nike’s Momentum Continues
Summer Visits Heat Up For Recreation and Outdoor Gear Chains
No CSS overwrite - July 2023 Office Index Recap
Staging - August 2023 Mall Indec
Mid-Atlantic Grocery Deep Dive
Experiential Chains Heating Up This Summer
Petco Goes Big by Going Small
Ulta Beauty: Leading the Discretionary Pack
Discount and Dollar Chains Continue to Thrive
Summer of Sports: DICK’s Sporting Goods and Hibbett Sports
Off-Price: Succeeding Into Summer
The Anchor Recap: July 2023
Superstores Maintaining Pandemic Gains Amidst Economic Headwinds
2023: Home Improvement at the Halfway Point
July 2023 Office Index Recap Mall Index: July 2023 Recap
widget test
The Taylor Swift Visit Lift
Southwestern Grocery Dive
July 2023 White Paper Recap: Halfway Point Review & Quarterly Index
Yum! Brands: Driving Dining Visits
Slurpees and Summer Movies Stimulate Consumer Foot Traffic
Cool Beans: Summer Coffee Update
Checking In on Back to School 2023
Crocs and New Balance Tip The Scales
Burger Bliss: Shake Shack and In-N-Out Stacking Visits
Chipotle & McDonald's Continue to Reign Supreme
Vibenomics and Partner to Enhance Retail Media In-Store Measurement
California Grocers Here We Come!
Marriott’s Different Audiences
Bonchon and Kura Sushi Thrive in the Fast-Casual Scene
A Shoe In: Footwear Climbs to the Top
Cheers! Raising a Glass to Beverage Retail Office Index: June 2023 Recap Mall Index June 2023 Recap – A Turn of the Tide and a Dive into Open-Air Lifestyle Centers
Local Kitchens: Redefining the Restaurant
Unlocking Urban Insights: The Value in Manhattan’s Employees
Ohio State Parks On The Rise
How is Inflation Impacting the High-Income Shoppers?
Five Fast-Growing Dining Chains
What To Expect From Prime Day and July Sales Events in 2023
The State Of Fashion: How Are Apparel Retailers Faring in 2023?
2023’s Latest Dining Success Story: GEN Korean BBQ House
The NBA Finals: A Location Intelligence Perspective
Moving the Market: The Impact of Domestic Migration on Housing Costs
Post-Pandemic Museum Update
The Darden-est Things
The Enduring Demand for Urban and Suburban Retail
Leveraging Data to Evaluate the Impact of Municipal Investments
Trader Joe's Success Amidst Food Inflation and Changing Consumer Behavior Office Index: May 2023 Recap
Fitness at its Fittest: Staying Strong in 2023
Movie Theaters, Off-Price, and Home Improvement: May 2023 Recap Mall Index - May 2023 Recap
What’s Working for Bath & Body Works?
Why Are Specialty Grocers Thriving in 2023?
The CAVA Craze: A Location Intelligence Perspective on the Mediterranean Marvel
How Will Primark’s US Expansion Impact Target?
All Eyes on Eyewear
Northwestern U.S. Grocery Dive
Return of the Lunch: Salad Chains Are Thriving
Retail Media Networks – Off the Beaten Track
Bet Your Bottom Dollar: Discount and Dollar Stores Drive Foot Traffic
Ulta & Lululemon: Discretionary Spending On The Up
The Score After Q1: Sporting Goods Chains
Who Uses NYC Airports: Biting Into The Big Apple’s Main Transport Hubs
Off Price: Strength in The Face of Retail Challenges
Visits Improve for Home Improvement
Walmart, Target & Wholesalers in Q1 2023 – The Return of Mission-Driven Shopping?
Department Store Roundup: Q1 2023 Office Index: April 2023 Recap Mall Index, April 2023 – A Rebound on the Horizon?
How Will Bed Bath & Beyond’s Bankruptcy Impact the Retail Space?
Buffet Restaurants: Filling Up on Foot Traffic
Thrift Stores: Vintage Visits Drive New Age in Apparel
The Windy City: A Hub of Post-Pandemic Opportunity
Diving into Dining Traffic - Q1 2023
Bring On The Joe
A Dollar (or more) For Your Thoughts: Five Below and pOpshelf
Dining Out With The Cheesecake Factory
Retail Foot Traffic Recap – March 2023
Digging Into 2023: McDonald’s and Chipotle Update Office Index: March 2023 Recap
How Did Key Retail Categories Perform in Q1 2023?