Paying $4 a gallon for gas not only puts a crimp on transportation spending, it's also a psychological barrier that makes consumers hunker down in other areas, said Bob Robicheaux, a retailing expert and professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"People just stop moving around as much all together," he said. "The spike in gasoline prices can cause a downturn in shopping at the malls and trips to the stores because people begin to question whether they want to travel 10 or 15 miles round trip to go explore what they might buy."

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Published: Sunday, April 08, 2012, 7:30 AM

Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News