AAA Alabama Poll: High Gas Prices, Economy Affect Holiday Shopping Budgets and Behaviors

BIRMINGHAM, AL--(Marketwire - Nov 2, 2011) - High gas prices are weighing on many local consumers' minds as they plan their holiday shopping lists, according to AAA Alabama's Third Annual Holiday Shopping Poll.

Sixty-seven percent of Alabamans surveyed said that high gas prices are currently having a significant effect on their household budget -- lower than the 78 percent in May of this year who said gas prices were impacting their budgets. At that time, Alabama gas prices were averaging more than $3.75 a gallon. This year is on track to be the most expensive one ever for Alabama gas prices, with a current year-to-date average price of $3.41.

But even with that concern, more than half of those polled -- 53 percent -- said they plan to spend about the same amount on holiday gifts as last year and 12 percent plan to spend more. Thirty-five percent of polled local consumers said they plan to spend "slightly less" or "a lot less" on holiday gifts this year compared to last year.

The 12 percent of surveyed Alabama residents who said they would spend a lot less on gifts this year cited multiple reasons, including:

  • Rising prices for household necessities other than gas: 62 percent
  • Too many other expenses/bills: 56 percent
  • Reduced household income: 52 percent
  • High gas prices: 40 percent
  • Unemployed member of household: 27 percent

Seventy percent of local consumers plan to change their gift shopping habits compared to last year in order to get more out of their holiday budgets. The top methods cited for saving money on gifts include: using free shipping offers online (42 percent); looking for less expensive gifts (38 percent); doing more research to get the best price (35 percent); shopping more at discount stores (28 percent); using more coupons (28 percent); and spending the same amount on children, but less on adults (27 percent).

"Economic concerns and high gas prices are making consumers more careful about how they spend their holiday gift budgets," said Clay Ingran, AAA Alabama spokesman. "We recommend that holiday shoppers plan out their routes with maps or a tool such as the free AAA Discounts smartphone app to save gas, time, and money."

Apparel and accessories are the most popular gift item this year, with 69 percent of Alabama shoppers planning to give clothing or accessories.

Other popular gift categories are: gift cards/gift certificates (66 percent); toys (49 percent); books (46 percent); DVDs/videos (43 percent); consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, or eReaders (37 percent); jewelry (33 percent); video games/gaming systems (26 percent); sporting goods (23 percent); and music (22 percent); and flowers/cards (13 percent). Three notable changes compared to last year for these categories are an increase in planned purchases of toys (49 percent vs. 39 percent in 2010), DVDs/videos (43 percent vs. 33 percent in 2010) and consumer electronics (37 percent vs. 29 percent in 2010).

The survey also showed that 69 percent of local consumers plan to pay for at least some gifts with a credit card, and of those shoppers, 79 percent will use a card that gives some type of rewards or cash back. "Consumers are getting savvier about how to use credit cards like the AAA Member Rewards Visa so they can either redeem points for an additional holiday gift on their list, or accumulate those points to help with a big-ticket wish like a vacation," Ingram said.

Regarding gas prices, those surveyed were also asked at what price point they would significantly change how much they drive or how much fuel they used. Six percent said $2.50 a gallon, 14 percent said $3, 24 percent said $3.50, 25 percent said $4, five percent said $4.50, 12 percent said $5, one percent said $5.50, one percent said $6, two percent said no price under $10, and 10 percent said they didn't know.

Among the 67 percent who said that high gas prices are currently affecting their spending decisions:

  • 81 percent indicated they have cut back on unnecessary driving;
  • 55 percent are spending less money eating out at restaurants;
  • 43 percent are putting less money into savings;
  • 36 percent are spending less money on holiday gifts;
  • 32 percent will spend less money on their holiday trip;
  • 30 percent are not taking a trip over the holidays;
  • 30 percent will search for discounts and specials on holiday gifts and travel;
  • 26 percent use a discount program for purchases such as AAA; and
  • 23 percent check the Internet for locations of the cheapest gas stations.

The AAA Alabama Holiday Shopping Poll was conducted online by the AAA Marketing Research Department between Oct. 4 and Oct. 20 and surveyed 330 AAA Alabama members. It has a margin of error of +/-5 percent and the differences between 2011 and 2010 results were tested for statistical significance at a 95 percent confidence level.

Contact Information:

Clay Ingram
(205) 978-7000 x3223