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By now, you’ve likely seen the trends – several reports on coupon facts and figures from the past year have pointed out that coupon values are rising, offer duration is on the decline, and food coupons are getting harder to find. The third and final major coupon analysis of the year supports those findings, and reveals a related twist – the dearth of food coupons is proving to be bad news for your local grocery store, and great news for drug stores and dollar stores.

Coupon processing company NCH Marketing Services has released highlights from its annual Coupon Facts report. NCH’s figures differ slightly from those of its coupon processing competitor Inmar, which issued some of its own coupon statistics last week, but the gist is the same.

NCH reports that 310 billion coupons were issued last year, and 2.75 billion were redeemed. Both figures are down from 2013, but couponers still managed to save more – a total of $3.6 billion in 2014, up nearly 3% from the previous year.

But how much you saved, depends on what you were buying, and where. While the average face value of all coupons issued last year rose 6% to $1.72, the average value of food coupons was just $1.06. And an alarming 43% of those required the purchase of two or more items. In total, marketers released about 10% fewer food coupons last year, and redemption fell by about the same rate.

Figures on nonfood coupons tell a much different story. Their average face value rose to $2.05, nearly double that of food coupons. Marketers released 3.5% more nonfood coupons, and redemption soared – couponers used 11.4% more nonfood coupons in 2014 than in the previous year.

To see the story of food versus nonfood coupons in microcosm, look no further than the preview of the coupons coming in your Sunday newspaper this weekend. Unless you’re a dog or a cat, there are virtually no deals on anything edible, with two lone exceptions – there will be one coupon for SuperPretzel and another for Ragu pasta sauce, worth a whopping 20 cents.

Don’t spend all those savings in one place! Interestingly enough, all of these coupons come courtesy of RedPlum, which is increasingly becoming the “nonfood” coupon insert, as compared to the more food-filled SmartSource. And RedPlum is published by Valassis, which also owns NCH, the author of the report that points out the sparseness of food coupons. Go figure.

In the end, it’s not only you who’s feeling the pinch from those lackluster food coupons. Your favorite grocery stores are, too. Grocery stores saw a 5.1% decline in total coupon redemption volume last year, and mass merchants like Target and Walmart’s share declined by 3.3%. Meanwhile, drug stores and dollar stores benefited from all of those nonfood coupons – their share of coupon redemption volume shot up by 16%.

That’s important, because more couponing helps retailers move more merchandise – and pocket more cash from those coupon processing fees. Retailers make a few extra cents for each coupon they accept. And over time, those pennies can really add up. But fewer coupons for food, means fewer coupons are being used at stores that sell food. That hurts profits, which could result in higher prices to help make up for it.

So ultimately, the fewer coupons you use, the more money you may end up spending at the grocery store. In more ways than one.

3 Comments

  1. do we know why food coupons continue to decline???

  2. Also dropped when stores here stopped doubling coupons here

  3. Como me pueden enviar cupones

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