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The Nielsen Company is out with a report on the resurgence in coupon usage, owing to the financial pressures created by the “Great Recession” of 2009-2009, pulling together research from a variety of sources. Some excerpts:

• “Inmar reports that coupon redemptions grew by 27% as Americans searched for ways to cut household costs and get more for their money. NCH Marketing Services claimed 2009 coupon redemption levels ‘achieved the second highest year-over-year growth ever recorded’.”
• “While newspaper inserts are still the primary method of coupon distribution (89%) and redemption (53%), Internet redemption growth has skyrocketed, rising 263% in 2009.”

• “While clipping continues to be a primary means of distribution, manufacturers and retailers launched new ways to get coupons into consumers’ hands such as printable coupons on the Internet, in-store kiosks and discounts linked to frequent shopper cards via smartphones and computers, negating the need for a paper coupon at all. In short, it is easier than ever to distribute and use coupons, and this convenience is also a key driver of redemption growth.”

• “Inmar reports that the majority of coupons were redeemed at conventional grocery stores (65%), but all classes of trade - dollar stores, mass merchandisers, convenience stores, military commissaries and drug stores posted double-digit redemption growth.”

• “All told, 83% of units purchased with manufacturer coupons in 2009 were done so by just 22% of households. Coupon enthusiasts - the heaviest users - accounted for 65% of manufacturer coupon unit purchases and 18% of all unit purchases in 2009. They drove a disproportionate amount of sales and sales growth - shopping more frequently, making 1.7 more trips than non users and buying more (a rate 1.8 times greater annually). While some might think that ‘crazed coupon clippers’ are only interested in a good deal, these findings suggests real benefits to manufacturers and retailers deploying coupons in their marketing mix.”

Looking to the future, Todd Hale, Nielsen’s senior vice president of consumer and shopper insights, writes, “As the economy improves, will consumers continue to use coupons? With the economic recovery taking hold slowly and without significant employment growth, expect coupon use to continue. As long as Americans feel unsure about their personal finances or confident about their jobs, they are going to continue to look at ways to save and get the most for their money.”
KC's View:
This lack of confidence is likely to persist, because even as some measures of the economy seem to improve (like the stock market and the profits at major banks), it is going to take years for things to improve for many people.

I wonder, however, if the companies seeing an improvement in coupon usage are planning now for that inevitable time - maybe years from now - when prosperity returns and people are less coupon-driven. Is there a way to rejigger the whole coupon business to keep it relevant? I have no idea...but it always seems to me that it makes sense to plan for the next big turn, rather than enjoying the fruits of the moment.