Convenience Worldwide: hurricanes hit US consumer confidence

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In the wake of two historic back-to-back hurricanes that curtailed fuel supply and increased demand, consumers say that they are feeling less optimistic about the state of the economy, according to the latest National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Consumer Fuels Survey.

With fuel prices rising 30¢ during the 30-day period to US$2.59 (at the time of the survey), Americans also say they are less optimistic about the economy. Overall, 54 per cent of Americans are optimistic about the economy, a six-point drop from prior month and the lowest level since October 2016. More than four in five Americans (83 per cent) say that fuel prices impact their feelings about the economy.

NACS represents the convenience store industry that sells an estimated 80 per cent of the fuel sold in the country.

The past few weeks have had a significant impact on the US transportation market. Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane to hit the US mainland since 2005, and its impact will last far longer than the initial storm, with approximately 10 per cent of US refining capacity still offline. The September NACS survey was conducted in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and during the time that warnings of Hurricane Irma dominated the national news and huge swaths of the Southeast faced evacuations and concerns over fuel availability.

More than four of five Americans  say that fuel prices are “much higher” (32 per cent) or “somewhat higher” (50 per cent) than prices were 30 days ago. This is the largest monthly increase reported in nearly five years of the NACS Monthly Consumer Fuels Survey, which has fielded continuously since January 2013.

Consumers in the southern US, who have been battered the most by recent storms, are the most likely to say fuel prices today are “much higher” than 30 days ago (42 per cent). However, the general impact of “higher” prices is observed across all regions: 81 per cent in the Northeast, 80 per cent in Midwest, 88 per cent in the South, and 76 per cent in the West.

In preparation – and in response to – these historic storms, NACS has worked with its partners at the American Red Cross to help collect donations for areas affected by the hurricanes. NACS also has developed resources to assist retailers and others with disaster recovery and relief.