Will lower gasoline prices give small businesses a holiday boost?

Retail sales forecasts are looking more upbeat heading into the holiday season, as consumer confidence reaches a seven-year high and gas prices continue to fall.

But will energy cost savings and more buoyant consumers actually translate into more business activity and sales for Main Street businesses?

Gasoline is averaging $3.01 a gallon nationally—down 8.2 percent from an average $3.28 a year ago, according to AAA figures.

By Friday, the national average should dip to $3, an important psychological level for consumers, said Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates in a statement.

Energy costs are one of the top three business expenses for 35 percent of small companies, according to a poll by the National Federation of Independent Business.

The primary energy cost for 38 percent of smaller firms is operating vehicles, followed by heating and cooling costs for about one-third. Operating equipment was the top energy cost for one-fifth of small businesses, according to the NFIB data.

Lower gasoline = more consumer spending?

Gasoline prices are displayed at an Arco gas station in Mill Valley, Calif., Oct. 27, 2014.
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Gasoline prices are displayed at an Arco gas station in Mill Valley, Calif., Oct. 27, 2014.

But already some economy watchers are wondering if $3 fuel will be enough to nudge consumers to turn energy savings into spending in other categories.

"Any time there's extra change in their pocket, families look for ways to stretch the dollar any way it makes sense," said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. "A drop below $3 could boost consumer sentiment, but I don't really know that it would contribute to [small retailers'] bottom lines at this point," Grannis said.

For now, larger retailers and big-box stores already are betting deep promotional discounts will lure foot traffic and sales.

Read MoreWho needs Black Friday? Retailers already cutting prices

Sageworks, a financial information company, reports retail sales among private companies with less than $5 million in annual revenue have seen 4.5 percent growth in annual sales through September of this year. That's up 5.5 percent from the same period a year ago. That's a slight revenue gain as gasoline prices have been above the $3 mark for the past couple of months.

"Individual private retailers are still positive and growing. But not nearly at the rate they have been over the past two years," said Libby Bierman, a Sageworks analyst.

However, there are some potential spending bright spots.

As holidays sales broadly in recent years have trended toward online sales, lower fuel prices may persuade consumers to get in their cars and travel to brick-and-mortar locations, Bierman said.

Read MoreLower oil, energy prices bring relief for businesses

Small Business Saturday, scheduled for Nov. 29 this year in the U.S., encourages consumers to spend at smaller, independent retailers. The event falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two of the busiest retail sales days of the year.

Small Business Saturday sales reached $5.7 billion in 2013, up from $5.5 billion in 2012.