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305 billion coupons sent out last year

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NCH Marketing Solutions, a Valassis corp., released its annual Coupon Facts Report for 2012.

Valassis is the company behind Red Plum, one of the largest printers of coupon inserts. For the past three years, I have sought out marketing and statistical data to keep me informed on the spending trends of other couponers and how the market is responding.

In 2012, 305 billion coupons were released to the general public, which was the same number as in 2011. The Coupon Facts Report said that an August consumer survey found that 79.8 percent of consumers regularly shop using consumer packaged goods manufacturers coupons, which was down slightly from last year’s 80.6 percent, but still above the pre-recession level of 63.6 percent in 2007.

A December survey found that 53.7 percent of consumers continued to focus on needs instead of wants. This was slightly higher than December 2011. We can infer from this that the public is still focused on stretching their budget as much as possible and finding the best deals.

Coupon redemption last year dropped 17 percent from 2011’s figures. The number of coupons redeemed in 2012 was 2.9 billion and 3.5 billion coupons were redeemed in 2011.

So, if the same numbers of coupons were issued in 2012 as were issued in 2011 and consumers are still as budget-driven as last year, then why did the number of redeemed coupons dwindle after four years of growth?

When NCH asked, the most common answer was, “I can’t find coupons on the products I want to buy.”

Non-food coupons have continued their two year rise, comprising 4.4 percent more of the total percentage than their total percentage in 2011. That means we are seeing more medicine coupons and personal care items and less food item coupons. These non-food items are generally not seen as highly needed items compared to food items.

Manufacturers have also decided to offer fewer coupons on their standard items and instead focus their coupon marketing on introducing new products into the market. These items are unfamiliar to shoppers that may balk at spending money for a flavored mayo even on sale and would rather purchase a store brand traditional mayo instead.

You also may have noticed expiration dates have shrunk further. In 2012, expiration dates shortened to an average of 9.3 weeks and dropped to an average of 8 weeks for non-food coupons. In 2010, the average was 10.4 weeks.

That means a couponer has less time to find the item on sale before the coupon expires. Most items stay on a 12-week sales cycle, which means that a couponer’s opportunity for a match up to a grocery chain’s major sales cycle has been shortened.

This limits the chance for the couponer to stock up on items.

It’s also interesting to note that the average face values of redeemed coupons dropped 1.3 percent from last year, making the average coupon value $1.53.

The market also saw a rise in the number of coupons requiring the purchase of two or more products. This type of coupon now represents 29 percent of all coupons distributed and comprises 45 percent of all food coupons.

At first this data seems like bad news for couponers, but it actually supports couponers that want to live a healthy lifestyle.

Take advantage of the non-food sales with coupons to stock up on those items to avoid large expenditures later, and limit purchases of the processed foods that have fewer coupons anyway. Buy meat and produce on sale and follow a meal plan to avoid waste.

Coupons are still worth the effort, but couponers need to adjust their shopping strategies to adapt to these trends.


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