While all of those factors should add up to a more confident consumer, Morgan Stanley argued that wage growth, as opposed to gas savings, will be the "dominant driver of gains in real disposable income."
Why? The firm said that consumers are more likely to spend extra money that they view as permanent in nature, such as a pay raise, as opposed to something that can ebb and flow as much as the cost of gas.
Still, there are some analysts who argue that in 2016, cheap gas should benefit a handful of retailers who cater to low-income shoppers. These consumers spend a higher percentage of their income on fuel, meaning lower prices help them disproportionately.
In a note to investors this month, Nomura analyst Robert Drbul said Wal-Mart "should continue to be a major beneficiary" of lower gas prices, as should J.C. Penney. Separately, Cowen and Co. analyst Oliver Chen listed a healthier moderate- to low-income consumer, who is being helped by lower gas prices, as one reason for his recent upgrade of Ross Stores.
Still, PwC's Steve Barr remains skeptical.
"The households below $50,000 are still really struggling and have not felt the impacts of the economic recovery," he said. "The small additional savings from lower gas bills has been really helpful, but it's really been more helpful in their day-to-day living."
Retail Metrics' Perkins said the key question remains how much of these savings are being offset by inflation. He cited the rising cost of health-care premiums, education and housing as three headwinds that continue to weigh on consumers.
To his point, Morgan Stanley's analysis found that only 30 percent of renters in 2007 put 30 percent or more of their income toward housing; in 2013, that number was 52 percent.