High gas prices benefit some businesses beyond the fuel industry

Years ago, I was reading an Archie comic... yes, you can now either nod in appreciation or start mocking me... and earlier today, one gag that has long stuck in my head flashed back to me. Archie Andrews is going to the movies, and he sees a sign at the theater advertising something along the words of: Attractive Prices.

He goes right up to the ticket booth and discovers that the price is something shocking (given this was the 1970s, it was probably $3). Archie is indignant, asking how they could possibly advertise these prices as attractive.

And the woman at the booth smiles and says, "Well, we like it."

I thought of that when I was reading about a Harris Interactive study that was released earlier this week by iCongo, a business to business web e-commerce company. One third of American adults say that they are more likely to shop on the Internet, as opposed to going into a store, because of high gas prices.

And seeing the survey and thinking of the Archie comic is when it hit me -- not for the first time -- that what's bad for one person's wallet is usually good for another. Online retailers probably are making out better than usual right about now due to some folks thinking twice before driving out to a book or toy store. In fact, maybe some of the public are giving online grocery stores a second look. And crummy as the economy may seem, I'm betting that certain industries and niche markets are growing very nicely right now. Especially companies that conduct surveys about the shaky economy -- they must be making a killing.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

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