According to an article from the Washington Post, sales at brick-and-mortar stores began to slide when gas hit $3.50 per gallon.
Retail drives a considerable percentage of the U.S. economy. When gas prices go up, people are less likely to go shopping because they perceive that “everything” is getting more expensive. It may only cost an extra dollar or two to fill up the tank, but people still perceive it as a significant cost increase.
As retail sales at brick-and-mortar stores declined, e-commerce sales, however, have dramatically increased and now account for 5.5 percent of all retail sales. Analysts attribute the rise in online sales to the fact that more people are getting comfortable with buying online. But, the rising gas prices likely played a factor. People save a trip to the store (and gas) when they buy products online.
But sales at one brick-and-mortar store are actually increasing: the gas station. Last year, gas stations made up 11 percent of retail sales, up from 7 percent of all retail sales in 1999.
Source: Washington Post, February 2012