Sharon Wastrodowski tops up her gas tank at Petro Canada on Lougheed Highway Thursday

Sharon Wastrodowski tops up her gas tank at Petro Canada on Lougheed Highway Thursday

Cheaper gas, cheerier Christmas

Savings could go towards holiday purchases.

Trim 26 cents off a litre of gasoline and the average driver can pocket $15 per fill-up.

And if filling up is a weekly routine, that’s another $60 a month in pocket change, which is nice to have this time of year.

The drop in gasoline prices, from a mid-summer high of about $1.42 a litre to Thursday’s $1.17 a litre, comes just as Christmas shoppers are getting into high gear and will help at least one shopper stretch her dollars.

“I think it’s great. It makes a big difference in the budget,” said Sharon Wastrodowski, who works at a big box store in Port Coquitlam, where wages “aren’t that great.”

She drives a little Suzuki and says the dollars she’ll save on gasoline this year likely will go to Christmas presents.

Add a low Canadian dollar, now at the 88-U.S.-cent range, making it less worthwhile to cross the border for U.S. deals, and local retailers should have lots to smile about this Christmas shopping season.

However, the connection between low gasoline prices and lots of yuletide giving isn’t that direct, according to one Maple Ridge retailer.

“The sales seem to be more event driven,” said Dave Sheppard, of Haney Sewing and Sound.

A busy Black Friday just finished, while the most frantic few shopping days in Canada, Boxing Week, are still to come.

“There are still tons of people who go down to the States all the time,” he said.

However, the price differences between Canada and the U.S. on electronic goods is marginal, while warranties aren’t covered here for U.S.-purchased goods.

“It’s all the same disposable income, so if there’s less money spent on gasoline, that’s obviously good for everybody, except the oil companies and the government,” said Sheppard.

“There’s more building happening in Maple Ridge again,” causing more people to look for appliances.

“I still think our gas prices are way too high.”

At Ardene clothing in Haney Place Mall, renovations in the mall and to the store are likely the reason business is better this year.

“So far, it’s probably a little better than last year,” said manager Lisa  Miller.

Ardene has been in its new, larger premises for about a year.

“It’s making a difference. We’re busy, always busy.”

However, Michelle Strobel at Suzanne’s, also in the mall, said so far there’s been no noticeable uptick that seems paired with lower gasoline prices.

Still, she expects this to be a better Christmas season.

The mall has been steadily renovating following the arrival of Target in 2013 in the former Zeller’s location.

At Mark’s, downtown on Lougheed Highway, sales also are similar to last year’s, said Jeremy Bekar.

“People are just starting.”

Jason Parent, vice-president of consulting for MJ Ervin and Associates, said there may be room for gasoline prices to drop a little more at the pumps as a result of fall of crude oil prices, but not a huge amount.

“We’re talking two or three cents,” Parent said. “Generally, I see retail gas prices hovering around where they are right now – plus or minus five cents – and then creep up a little more in the spring.”

While filling up at the Haney Chevron, motorist Fred Smith said he doesn’t worry too much about what the price of gasoline.

Since he retired, the amount of driving he does has decreased. That, and having a Toyota Prius hybrid car means few worries about the price of gasoline.

“We don’t not do anything because of the gas prices.”

He said his hybrid car was one of the best investments he ever made.

“We should be working towards electric cars.”

At the Petro Can station on 228th Street, Frank Luth was filling up his wife’s Chrysler, which he said doesn’t have great fuel economy. He wasn’t complaining about the price of gasoline, but wondered why diesel prices hadn’t dropped. They were stuck at $1.33 a litre.

If the low prices stick around it might encourage people to travel more during the summer, he added.