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Franklin, Tenn. It is no secret that many U.S. government stimulus checks were allocated toward daily expenses, including fuel and food, over discretionary spending. But the overall impact of the checks have been drastically offset by higher consumer prices, according to a study conducted by IHL Group.

To date, $92 billion in stimulus checks have been delivered to consumers’ mailboxes. However, a majority of that total was gobbled up by quickly increasing fuel and food prices, the study said.

For 12 months ending Aug. 1, consumer gas and food prices jumped $132.4 billion.

“Every sustained one-cent increase in fuel prices takes $1.7 billion a year out of U.S. consumers' pockets for other spending," said Greg Buzek, president of IHL Group, an analyst firm and consultancy that serves retailers and technology vendors. 

“These are lost sales for non-fuel retailers, restaurants, auto dealers,” he said. “And sales lost to the retail economy in the past year due to a sustained rise in gas prices equates to the combined annual revenues for Kroger and Target."

While retailers still have a hard road ahead of them, the recent drop in fuel prices could be a boost for chains during the back-to-school shopping crunch.

"The timing is actually very good for retailers and should help back-to-school sales by releasing over $3.4 billion for consumers for non-fuel activities," said Buzek. "Those retailers that have adjusted their inventories and coordinated their marketing accordingly are best positioned to benefit."

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