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

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

Seventy-one percent of those surveyed said that high gas prices are currently having a significant effect on their household budget -- slightly lower than the 74 percent in May of this year who said gas prices were impacting their budgets. At that time, Hawaii gas prices were averaging more than $4.50 a gallon. This year is on track to be the most expensive one ever for Hawaii gas prices, with a current year-to-date average price of $4.10.

But even with that concern, more than half of those polled -- 60 percent -- said they plan to spend about the same amount on holiday gifts as last year and 10 percent plan to spend more. Thirty 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 14 percent of surveyed local residents who said they would spend a lot less on gifts this year cited multiple reasons, including:

  • Too many other expenses/bills: 67 percent
  • Reduced household income: 60 percent
  • High gas prices: 51 percent
  • Rising prices for household necessities other than gas: 51 percent
  • Unemployed member of household: 13 percent

Sixty-three 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 (39 percent); doing more research to get the best price (31 percent); looking for less expensive gifts (29 percent); shopping more at discount stores (21 percent); shopping online on Black Friday or Cyber Monday for deals (21 percent); and using more coupons (18 percent).

"Economic concerns and high gas prices are making consumers more careful about how they spend their holiday gift budgets," said Diane Peterson, regional manager for AAA Hawaii. "To make it easier for members to take advantage of AAA discounts while holiday shopping, the current issue of Hawai'i magazine has a savings guide of coupons highlighting discounts with popular retailers such as Omaha Steaks, and Gap Outlet stores."

Gift cards or gift certificates are the most popular gift item for the holidays, according to the AAA Hawaii poll. Seventy percent of those polled will have gift cards on their shopping lists.

Other popular gift categories are: apparel and accessories (63 percent); toys (37 percent); books (32 percent); consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, or eReaders (32 percent); DVDs/videos (25 percent); jewelry (24 percent); sporting goods (22 percent); flowers/cards (21 percent); and music (20 percent).

The survey also showed that 82 percent of local consumers plan to pay for at least some gifts with a credit card, and of those shoppers, 95 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," Peterson 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. Thirteen percent said $3.50 a gallon or lower, 21 percent said $4, 17 percent said $4.50, 22 percent said $5 a gallon, five percent said between $5.01 and $9.99 a gallon, seven percent said $10, 12 percent said they didn't know and four percent said none of those prices.

Among the 71 percent who said that high gas prices are currently affecting their spending decisions:

  • 77 percent indicated they have cut back on unnecessary driving;
  • 49 percent are spending less money eating out at restaurants;
  • 45 percent are putting less money into savings;
  • 34 percent are spending less money on holiday gifts;
  • 32 percent will search for discounts and specials on holiday gifts and travel;
  • 32 percent use a discount program for purchases such as AAA;
  • 24 percent will spend less money on their holiday trip;
  • 21 percent are not taking a trip over the holidays;
  • 14 percent plan to buy a more fuel-efficient car this year; and
  • 14 percent check the Internet for locations of the cheapest gas stations.

The AAA Hawaii Holiday Shopping Poll was conducted online by the AAA Marketing Research Department between Oct. 4 and Oct. 20 and surveyed 361 AAA Hawaii 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:

Marie Montgomery
(714) 885-2333

Diane Peterson
(808) 529-5000