Record high average gasoline prices nationally in 2012 following on record prices the year before have big implications for retailers and the U.S. economy.
When prices reach $3.50 per gallon, consumers cut back on purchases everywhere, said Tom Collins Sr., president of Luke Oil, which owns the Luke chain of gas stations and convenience stores in Northwest Indiana.
"People start buying less," Collins said. "They buy what they need, but they really start to tighten up on those things they feel they don't need."
For the first time in three years, Luke gas stations and convenience stores realized no significant boost from the holiday season at the end of the year, Collins said.
Lately, oil supplies have been sufficient and prices steadier than in the past, giving some cause for optimism.
With that optimism, Luke Oil continues to hire, with a commercial sales expansion resulting in the hiring of seven new management and administrative employees and the gas station chain opening new locations.