Shoppers get less extreme about coupons

Loyalty programs, online codes and deeper everyday discounts are taking a cut out of the weekly circular.

By Jason Notte Apr 2, 2013 7:16AM

Coupons (© NULL/Corbis)Let the extreme couponers fill their underground bunkers with pallets of discounted hand soap. The extreme non-couponing majority of U.S. consumers has figured out how to save without relying on junk mail or scissors.


According to coupon consulting firm Inmar, about 3 billion coupons were redeemed in 2012. That's down 14% from 2011, though another group, NCH Marketing Services, suggests coupon use has actually dropped 17%. 


Between grocers like Kroger (KR), Safeway (SWY) and SuperValu (SVU) offering fewer coupons and consumers opting for card-based or online coupons instead -- or shunning coupon-issuing stores altogether -- there could be tough times ahead for the coupon-clipping contingent. Discovery Media's TLC may want to keep a mid-season replacement for retail hoarding show "Extreme Couponing" on deck.


Retailers themselves deserve much of the blame for eroding their own coupon-using buyer base. The industry distributed about 310 billion coupons in 2012, down from 313 billion in 2011 and way down from 336 billion in 2010, according to Inmar. At the same time, the average redemption period for coupons dwindled 8.3% from 2.4 months to 2.2 months, according to Inmar.

And the face value of those coupons dropped 1.9% from $1.59 to $1.56. Even if customers wanted to redeem their wads of clipped discounts, the amount they had to buy for deals to take effect increased 4%.


That being the case, customers didn't mind taking their business to shops without such tight coupon restrictions or where deep discounts could be found without an arts-and-crafts project. Phil Lempert, chief executive of Supermarket Guru, told NBC's "Today" that health and beauty stores like CVS (CVS) and Walgreens (WAG), warehouse stores like Costco (COST) and Wal-Mart's (WMT) Sam's Club and specialty grocers like Aldi and Trader Joe's are offering customers deep discounts without doling out reams of physical coupons.


Despite pleas from customers for more personalized, card-based deals and more online coupons and coupon codes, nearly 40% of all redeemed coupons come from newspaper inserts or mailers, Inmar says. With card-based coupons from customer loyalty programs now accounting for roughly a third of all coupons redeemed and online coupons representing 4.6% of all coupon discounts and growing, perhaps we can finally get past the stacks of paper with dotted lines and start cutting out discounting's middleman.


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Apr 2, 2013 5:53PM
Using coupons is one of the best way to save your money. Some people like me always search for coupons before shopping online, Now I just directly visit to and get coupons for the store I'm shopping for.
Apr 6, 2013 10:40AM
I used to get the Sunday paper every week, because the coupons I got in them would cover the cost of the paper.  Nowadays the coupons are mostly for non-essential items like beauty products and junk food.  One the rare occasion I saw something I would buy, it was necessary to buy 3 of the items to use the coupon.  Nowadays, I scan the sales pages, and buy what the store has discounted.
Apr 2, 2013 10:10AM

We never buy anything that goes to waste...NO ONE should..But never is forever,sooooo?


Using Aldi's for certain staples, I only go about every three(3) months....1 trip.

Stock up pantry and put grain items(flours/pancake) in freezer..


Wife does the same if a major sale at our regional store, buying usable 10'fers.

Once a week otherwise for perishables, and then WalMart for petfood and loss leaders.

Usually "day old" bread store every 3 weeks, which also stores in freezer,buns and breads.


Few trips also saves gas....And we/her only occassionally use coupons.

Plus raising big Garden and buying from local other farmers, in the Country..

We eat quite well and we eat "cheap"....Having a good plan and storage helps.

Apr 2, 2013 9:10AM
Couponing is one thing. Buying all that stuff because you can and letting it go to waste is another. Worse yet, is just plain old hoarding. Now I realize some people get this extra and donate it, which is great. That's another story entirely. But personally, I have a life and don't intend to spend it shopping.
Apr 6, 2013 12:47PM




Apr 6, 2013 2:22PM

Advertisers seem to have forgotten that a growing segment of shoppers are older, single people.  Coupons are written in "mouse type", that small print which used to be reserved for legalese or stuff they did not want the consumer to know. Now, even with reading glasses on, the offer is almost impossible for me to read.  Also, most coupons are for multiple items.  I don't need 3 extra large detergents or 5 lb of chicken cutlets.  Plus, the coupons for the products I buy are not available anymore; they are mostly for stuff nobody buys.  If peeps don't like a product they won't buy it for free even (Yogi Berra speak). So, please make coupons which I can read, for one item I want to buy and coupons will become popular again.


Apr 6, 2013 11:40AM

Using manufacturers coupons really helps military families shop in commissaries overseas.  If you are not already clipping for yourself or another cause please consider clipping and shipping mfg cpns for troops who've been deployed to overseas locations where commissaries are available.  If you don't know someone that you can specifically send mfg cpns to please look up project troopons on the support our troops website.  You'll find all the details about what they do, how they do it, and how you can participate.  The cost of living for many of our military members overseas is very high.  This is one way we can make things a bit easier for them.  Please, Please Please help support our troops overseas by looking up  project troopons  on the support our troops website and start clipping and shipping manufacturers coupons to them. . .  thanks a bunch! 

Apr 6, 2013 11:24AM

Major retailers around me will not accept online printed coupons (WalMart, Target and Michael's) probably because they've had incidences of fraudulently printed ones being turned in.

Apr 2, 2013 6:23PM
There are actually more coupons available online than ever before.  has more than 1,000 printable coupons for grocery stores listed all in one place and matched to your shopping list.
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