Although Sept. 1 marked the beginning of National Coupon Month, I was quite perplexed about the absence of grocery coupons in my newspaper Labor Day weekend. Started as a marketing campaign of the Promotion Marketing Association 13 years ago, tough economic times have ignited a desire to save even more at the grocery store.
A recent study indicated that 89 percent of Americans regularly used coupons when shopping for groceries. With over 164 billion coupons offered by retailers in the first half of 2010, this growth builds on the record-breaking trends of 2009 when 311 billion coupons were distributed in the marketplace. In fact, nearly $3 billion was saved using coupons last year alone.
A common misconception among non-coupon users is that coupon shoppers have low incomes, are disadvantaged or are struggling financially in these tough economic times. Nothing could be further from the truth.
According to the Nielsen Company, a global leader in measurement and information, the biggest coupons users are Caucasian women under the age of 54 with college degrees and average incomes of more than $70,000 per year. In contradicting every preconceived notion, these women are among what has become known as “heavy coupon users.”
Among those shoppers that are not clipping grocery coupons are the individuals who could benefit the most. Of 100 shoppers who make less than $20,000 a year, just 1.6 percent use coupons to their best advantage. This startling statistic has always puzzled me.
Coupons represent free money and additional income to those that indulge. Quoting from Nielsen’s report, “the better educated and more affluent consumers are much better at looking for deals, as they recognize the value of money.” Nothing can be further from the truth in these tough economic times where grocery bills account for nearly 11 percent of the average family budget.
On the other hand, in a category in which I apparently belong, the savings become more dramatic. As a “coupon enthusiast” – I cannot resist the thrill of “stacking” my way to a great money-saving deal, sometimes earning money back on the purchase of a BOGO item using a manufacturer’s coupon for each, and occasionally coupling with a double coupon offer.
Defined as someone who uses 104 or more coupons in a six-month period, coupon enthusiasts accounted for 65 percent of all coupon usage and 18 percent of all purchases in 2009. Avid coupon users purchased nearly 20 percent of everything bought with a coupon last year.
Coupon enthusiasts love coupons and use them with such frequency that it has become a way of life. Another startling statistic reported is that approximately 22 percent of shoppers are responsible for 83 percent of all coupons redeemed last year. Aside from “coupon enthusiasts” and “heavy coupon users”, the remaining 78 percent of shoppers used just 17 percent of the coupons redeemed.
While grocery retailers continue to allocate approximately 85 percent of coupons to the free-standing insert cooperative coupon booklet, Internet distribution continues to grow at a pace faster than all other media distribution. Among the more popular Internet coupon sites are www.smartsource.com, www.coupons.com, www.valpak.com and www.redplum.com.
Whether you shop at Albertsons, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Food Lion, Publix, Save-a-Lot, Sam’s Club, Sedanos, Sweetbay, Walmart or Winn-Dixie, each of these stores offer an online section for coupon savings and store discounts. Shoppers visiting the respective websites need only direct themselves to the coupon section then click and print desired grocery coupons.
We have all heard the stories of “Coupon Queens” or “Coupon Moms” walking into the grocery store and reducing a hundred dollar bill to about ten dollars by using coupons. Although possible, this is not realistic for the average shopper. In withstanding the ridicule of family, friends, fellow shoppers, and the occasional cashier, I am happy with an average savings of 60 percent at my favorite Publix.
Source: The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune (Media General Group) – http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/sep/19/coupon-shopping-301-89-percent-americans-use-groce/
William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.