Sainsbury's Brand Match


Couponing is more popular than ever, with more shoppers using more coupons, and saving more money, than ever before.

But wait – haven’t recent reports said that couponing is actually on the decline?

Not across the pond.

While extreme couponing is falling out of favor here in the U.S., shoppers are just catching onto the concept in the U.K. A new report from Valassis says British coupon use has skyrocketed by 38% in the first half of the year. A total of 275 million coupons have been redeemed so far, for a savings of $1.3 billion.

Compare that to the trend over here, where Valassis’ NCH Marketing recently found that coupon use has declined by 8.1%. $1.27 billion worth of coupons have been redeemed so far this year.

So the Brits have us beat.


That could be because they do it a little differently over there. The vast majority of coupons are distributed by the stores themselves – Valassis reports that fully 82% of all coupons redeemed are issued by retailers. That said, British shoppers are taking advantage of manufacturer’s coupons, too – their redemption volume in the first six months of the year grew by an astonishing 90%.

“The public’s determination to reduce household spending by planning their shopping around their coupons is a very powerful factor in this growth,” said Valassis UK’s managing director Charles D’Oyly. “But it’s the competition between the supermarkets and increasing eagerness of brands fighting for a share of consumers’ grocery spending that are mainly driving this increase.”

Indeed, grocery competition in Britain is fierce – and coupons are playing a big part in the battle. Many retailer coupons are issued as part of the major chains’ increasingly generous price match programs. Unlike in the U.S., where it’s generally up to shoppers to request a price match, if their store allows it at all, British grocery chains are matching their competitors’ prices automatically – and issuing coupons covering the difference, on the spot (read: “If Only All Price Matching Was This Easy”).

“Retailers keep turning to coupons as a way to attract and retain customers,” D’Oyly said. “They are competing increasingly for individual shopping trips in the face of consumer tendencies to switch shops in order to bag the better bargains.” An earlier survey by Valassis found that 94% of shoppers said they would bypass their usual grocery store if another one had better deals.

“Using coupons is now so well incorporated into everyday shopping behavior across all demographics that it is likely to continue far beyond the recession,” D’Oyly concluded. And it comes just as American shoppers seem to be getting over extreme couponing. Producers of a certain reality TV show that has apparently run its course in the U.S. might want to take notice – there may be a new audience overseas for a new series with British sensibilities.

Coming soon: a shopper who uses coupons at Tesco to fill her trolley with 62 bottles of HP Sauce! It could happen…

Image source: J Sainsbury

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