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Following a leveling-off period from 2006-08, coupon redemptions grew by 27% in 2009, according to analysis by The Nielsen Company.

News of the Coupon’s Death is Greatly Exaggerated
After reaching a peak of 4.6 billion redemptions in 1999 (according to Inmar), annual coupon use by US consumers sank to a low of 2.6 billion for the three-year average ending in 2008. However, as a result of an historic economic recession, coupon redemptions in the US increased 27% to about 3.3 billion. This marks the second-highest year-over-year growth in coupon redemption ever recorded, according to NCH Marketing.

Paperless Distribution Drives Growth
While newspaper inserts are still the primary method of coupon distribution (89%) and redemption (53%), internet redemption growth has skyrocketed, rising 263% in 2009. Other paperless coupon distribution methods, such as electronic checkout (39%), digital promotions (31%) and shelf pad (30%), also helped drive 2009’s significant growth in coupon redemptions.

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Non-food Growth is Strong
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.

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Redemption growth outside of traditional food channels is a reflection of a coupon movement that started with food, but quickly turned to non-food in the second half of 2009. Non-food coupon redemption growth escalated from a rate of 9% in the first quarter to 46% in second quarter and continued growing throughout the year; rising 45% in third quarter and 37% in fourth quarter. A total of 1.2 billion non-food coupons were redeemed in 2009, representing one-third of all coupons.

Enthusiasts Play Key Role
All but the heaviest coupon user group experienced negative total unit growth (with and without a coupon). Eighty-three percent 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.

Enthusiasts 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).

Affluent Consumers Use More Coupons
More affluent households dominate coupon usage: 38% of “super heavy” users and 41% of “enthusiasts” come from households with incomes greater than $70,000. Households with income of $100,000 and up were the primary drivers of coupon growth in 2009. The enthusiast category also attracts a disproportionate number of households with incomes between $50,000 and $69,900. Households residing in affluent country and suburban areas are more likely to be heavier coupon users, while non-users are more apt to be those households living in rural areas and struggling urban core areas.

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To explain these somewhat counterintuitive statistics, Nielsen quotes findings from Scarborough Research indicating that better educated and higher income households buy and read the newspaper more than others, and newspapers remain a key vehicle for delivering coupons. Furthermore, promotions are generally targeted in areas with more affluent consumers.

Women, Whites Also Use More Coupons
Beyond income levels, more than half (51%) of larger households (three or more members) are enthusiasts, while roughly one-third of non- and lighter coupon users are single-person households. Younger female households use coupons more, while male-only households use them less. Older users (65 and up) are also important “heavier” and “super” coupon users. All ethnic groups use coupons, but three-fourths of the average coupon enthusiasts are white.

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February 2010 Coupon Traffic Rises Dramatically
Online coupon usage continues to climb in 2010, according to data from coupon aggregator RetailMeNot. February 2010 coupon traffic measured 12.8 million users, a 62% increase from 7.9 million users in February 2009. During the month, online coupon users generated about $32.9 million in sales, a 62% jump from $20.2 million in February 2009. There were 339,230 online coupons available for 58,667 retailers, and 56,486 printable coupons available for 52,000 stores.

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