I don’t know if there’s anything you can do but I have to vent. I have been a couponer for many years. It’s something my family needs to do to make ends meet. But ever since the TLC “Extreme Couponing” TV show came around, it seems a lot of things have changed. Companies’ coupon offers don’t seem to be as good any more and a lot of stores seem to be against coupons. I blame that ridiculous show. But it’s not like all of us are doing things to extremes. How do we tell companies to stop pulling back their coupon offers? Innocent people are suffering without the better coupon offers we used to see. – Chandra S.
This isn’t the only email I’ve received about the “Extreme Couponing” effect. Longtime coupon users have noticed that some manufacturers seem to have pulled back on coupon offerings and values. Manufacturers that previously offered $1 coupons now offer coupons good for $1 off on the purchase of two items.
Coupon restrictions are on the rise, too. One month after the first episode of “Extreme Couponing” aired, Procter & Gamble introduced the wording “Limit 4 like coupons per transaction” to its coupons. In September 2012, the wording became even more restrictive: “Limit of 4 like coupons per household per day.”
While I primarily deal on the consumer side of the coupon equation, I often talk to manufacturers and retailers. This fall, I spoke to a group of both at an annual marketing conference about extremism in couponing. My task? To provide statistics and anecdotes supporting the argument that not all couponers are extremists.
Most couponers aren’t extremists. Not by a long shot. According to the direct mail media and marketing services company Valassis (publisher of the RedPlum insert and others), coupon extremists make up less than .3 percent of shoppers – that’s less than three-tenths of one percent! The notion that “everybody must be doing it” couldn’t be further from the mark.
In fact, coupon shoppers are a desirable demographic for brands and stores alike. Coupon shoppers purchase 20 percent more than non-coupon shoppers and couponers make 22 percent more shopping trips annually than non-coupon shoppers do, according to a study from Coupons.com and GfK Knowledge Networks, an online research firm in New York City. We represent a great deal of buying power. A large group of couponers shouldn’t be blamed for the extremism of the very few. Indeed, many of the people appearing on “Extreme Couponing” are repeat reality shoppers who have been featured on multiple episodes – further supporting the idea that there really aren’t very many people couponing at that level.
As more data supporting the positive side of couponing continue to be made available to our favorite stores and brands, I hope we will see the return of higher-value offers. Even as couponing continues to evolve, I believe that it’s still a great time to be a couponer. Coupons aren’t going away any time soon, and coupon redemption rates remain high. At any given time, there are plenty of coupon offers available. Want proof? Some $470 billion of coupons for consumer packaged goods were distributed in 2011. That is 70 times the amount of money that the U.S. Treasury prints each year! Coupons drive sales, and manufacturers continue to print plenty of them. Through strategic use of coupons, combining them with the best sale prices for the items I wish to buy, I still cut my grocery bill in half – and that’s always been my goal! I love getting products free with coupons just as much as anyone else does. But at the end of each shopping trip, I also know I’m getting the best prices possible for the products I buy for my family.
Next week, I’ll share an email from a reader who is frustrated with the kinds of coupons he’s finding available of late.
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Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.