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Retail’s Latest Worry: Rocketing Gas Prices Cost Shoppers Billions

With war, terrorism and the weak economy weighing on consumers, soaring gas prices are now taking more cash from them - and retailers.

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"People are shopping and we are seeing normal shopping patterns at this time," the spokesman said.

Other stores also have yet to see any impact. Cheryl Daskas, co-owner of Tender, a 3,000-square-foot European designer clothing store in Birmingham, Mich., noted that gas has gone up to $1.98 a gallon for super unleaded in Birmingham, and $1.76 for regular. However, her affluent customers haven’t changed their mobile lifestyles. "They drive big cars and big SUVs, and know it is going to cost them money, because you have to drive everywhere here," she said. "They’re just used to it."

Jim Westcott, general manager of Somerset Collection, in Troy, Mich., near Detroit, agreed, saying, "I don’t think it’s had an effect yet. Everybody here drives their own cars. Detroit is a lot like L.A. People would be hesitant to defer that. I doubt carpooling is increasing, which would limit individuals getting around, though I would envision people consolidating their shopping trips. But the upscale nature of our center would tend to minimize any effect of gasoline prices."

At one of America’s most productive malls, Dadeland in Kendall, Fla., south of Miami, Annette Alvarez, marketing director, sees no correlation between shopper traffic in the center and gas prices. "We haven’t really heard of that as a deterrent," she said. "Right now, we are not at the point where people are changing their habits. The values being offered offset any increased expense."

She said that traffic has been good recently, but she acknowledged that world concerns, such as probable war with Iraq and the economy, could be affecting purchasing. She also said gas prices could affect store operations, such as shipments. "It will be interesting to see how their costs are going to affect prices, maybe reduce the number of shipments, but I haven’t seen anything directly related to that," Alvarez said. "The stores are doing such an incredible job offering value. People can save so much, so a trip to the mall is definitely worth it. The gas is minimal. People are still looking for entertainment, and they are still looking for values. While people are still waiting to see what’s going to happen [around the world], right now, I don’t think it’s had a great effect."
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