Local businesses feeling impact of high gas prices in their stores

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Gas prices are on the rise, but you aren't just feeling them at the pump. Local businesses are paying more, too, and doing their best to keep up with the climbing cost.

Nationally, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is $3.79. That's up almost 4 cents from last week and more than 30 cents from this time last year.

Tommy Keller, co-owner of North Augusta Feed and Seed, said all his costs are going up.

"The cost of delivery -- just on the fuel alone -- is up about 20 percent," he said.

It's an increase that causes local businesses to raise prices, but Keller said those prices can only go so high.

"We cannot pass it on to our customers," Keller said. "Not all of it. We pass some of it, whatever they can bear, that's what we try to do."

So the business ends up covering most of the cost.

"We can't raise them enough to make the same margin of profit that we did two and three and four years ago," he said. "You just have to compromise. If you want to keep your customer, you really have to just bite the bullet and compromise."

A compromise that ends up costing him a lot of money.

"The profit margin is not there," he said. "We've just had to give."

Stores aren't the only businesses affected by the high prices. Even the people hauling the fuel are losing money.

Brandon Higgins, owner of Higgins Transport, said his trucks transport the fuel to convenience stores.

"When people aren't driving, they see the prices at the pumps, we're not delivering as much gasoline and diesel fuels," he said.

He said people are carpooling more and filling up less. So his business is down.

"We basically don't haul as much diesel fuel to truck stops because the truck stops don't have as many trucks coming through," he said.

And he says his delivery charges don't even make up for the price of the fuel.

"Our surcharge is a supplemental income to what our diesel fuel prices actually are," Higgins said. "We can't recoup all that money or else we wouldn't be in business."

Keller is concerned about his own customers.

"Right now it's all they can do to pay their bills and pay their grocery bill and I don't know how much that got leftover to buy flowers with," he said.

Diesel fuel is higher than regular. The national average price on Wednesday was $4.10.

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