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.
Digitally Native Brands Lean Into Brick & Mortar
Washington, D.C. Population Changes & Trends
A Location Intelligence Perspective on Macy’s Rightsizing
Amazon-Powered Shopping: The Future of Brick-and-Mortar Grocery?
Cold Weather, Hot Visits: Diving into Winter Resorts
Wawa and 7-Eleven: Leaning Into the “Slurpee Effect”
2022 and Beyond: Catching Up With McDonald’s & Chipotle
Let’s Have Some Fun! Going Out Is In’s Q4 2022 Quarterly Index Adds Industry Executives to Leadership Team To Drive Company's Next Phase of Growth
5 Emerging Retail Formats: 2023’s Brick-and-Mortar Evolution
Grocery Update: Zooming in on the Lone Star State
2022 Office Recap: The Year of the TGIF Work Week
What Lies Ahead for Brick-and-Mortar Luxury in 2023 Mall Indexes: December 2022 Recap
Looking Back on 2022’s Holiday Shopping Season
Post-Pandemic Migration Trends in New York
Top Retailers for 2023
The Live Sports Advertising Opportunity
Domestic Migration to the Mountain States: Small Shifts with Big Implications
New Year, New Food: 5 Dining Trends For 2023
This is Why Shop-in-Shops Are Everywhere
Super Saturday 2022 Recap
The San Francisco Shift
Grocery Year-End Update: Publix in the Spotlight
Three Ways Retailers Can Think Small to Increase Store Impact
Offline Beauty Is on an Upswing
The Evolving Migration Patterns of New York’s Florida Snowbirds Office Index: November 2022 Recap
How Viral Social Media Trends Can Drive Offline Engagement
Are You Ready for Some Football? Experiential Marketing Shows Promise
Mall and Shopping Center Trends For 2023
Retail Corridors and Indoor Malls: A Holiday Head-to-Head
Placer Bytes: Nike, lululemon, and GameStop Update Mall Indexes: November 2022 Update
Black Friday 2022: Consumers Hear the Call
Digitally Native Brands: Taking Off, Offline
Discount and Dollar Stores Leading the Pack
Turkey Wednesday 2022
Retail’s Evolving Holiday Season
Placer Bytes: Starbucks and Department Stores Ahead of Black Friday
Ulta: A Force to be Reckoned With
College Towns Drive Dining Growth
Foot Traffic Trends Reveal Consumers Ready for Holiday Cheer
How Retailers Can Win Big By Going Small
How Are Consumers Feeling Ahead of Black Friday 2022?
Off-Price, Hibbett, and Dick’s Pre-Holiday Check-in
Ho, Ho, Wholesale: Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s
October 2022’s Retail Rebound
Target and Walmart Ahead of the Holidays
Home Improvement: Leave it to the Pros
Despite Inflation, Holiday Season is Off to a Good Start Office Index: October 2022 Recap Mall Indexes- October 2022 Update
Americans Double Down on Fitness
The State of Grocery
CVS and Walgreens: The Wave Continues
Coffee Chains Brewing Up Visits Spotlight: Pizza Players
What Drove COVID-Era Urban Migration Trends?
Kroger and Albertsons: A Merging of Strengths
Texas Roadhouse Innovations Dishing Up Success
Holidays on the Horizon: Mid-Range and Luxury Shopping
McDonald's and Chipotle's Post-Pandemic Success
Announcing’s Q3 2022 Quarterly Index
5 Hot Restaurant Brands for 2023
Target Finds a Winning Deals Day Formula
Five Trends to Watch for 2022’s Holiday Shopping Season
September 2022 Analysis: A Difficult Month and Time for Optimism
Inflation’s Retail Winners
Five Apparel Retailers to Watch Ahead of the Holidays Spotlight: Wawa’s QSR Pivot Mall Indexes: September 2022 Recap Office Indexes: September 2022 Recap
The Impact of Population Growth on Commercial Real Estate 
Starbucks' New Makeover
There's Somethin' About Pumpkin
Expanding Offline Reach
Breakfast Restaurants are Rising in Popularity
The Power of Labor Day 2022
Tourism in Miami Heating Up
Citi Trends on the Rise
Reaching Rural Consumers Through Retail Media Network
Darden Restaurants Cooking Up Success
The Home Improvement Sector: A Sign of Consumer Confidence
QSR Is Having a Northeastern Growth Spurt
Domestic Migration’s Ripple Effects
A Look Back at Back To School 2022
Kroger Digital Tell-All
The Return of In-Person Networking
The Reinvention of the American Mall Office Building Indexes: August 2022 Recap Mall Indexes - August 2022 Recap
Five Below’s Back to School Success
Plus-Size Fashion’s Staying Power
Placer Bytes: Best Buy & GameStop 
Petco Barking Up the Right Tree
Lipstick Effect Boosts Ulta’s Growth 
Placer Bytes: DICK's Sporting Goods and Hibbett Sports