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Coupon values are rising, multiple purchase requirements are declining, and there have been more coupons available so far this year than at this time last year. So everything is looking up!

Except for coupon redemption. Despite these many signs that coupons are getting better, it appears we’re using far fewer of them.

On the heels of its annual report on coupons and promotions in 2014, Inmar has released some coupon facts and figures from the first quarter of 2015. And one potentially alarming figure shows that coupon use has fallen significantly – by 10% compared to the first three months of last year.

97.5 billion coupons have been distributed so far this year. That’s about 800 million more than at this time last year. The average face value so far is $1.76, up 3.5%. And the average purchase requirement, for coupons that require multiple purchases, has dropped 4.3%.

So why have we only used 660 million of those coupons, 10% fewer than we used during the first few months of last year? Did we suddenly get rich and cast aside our coupons? Or are the higher-value coupons we’re seeing still not enticing enough?

Turns out there’s more to coupons than face values and the sheer number available. They also need to be for things you actually want to buy.

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In a survey of coupons users published in its annual report, Inmar found that one of the top barriers to coupon use has to do with the attractiveness of the offers. 63% of coupon users lamented that they “can’t find coupons for the products that I want to buy.”

More, and higher-value coupons, aren’t going to help much if they’re for products that simply don’t interest you.

But tied for the top spot on the list of barriers to coupon use, also cited by 63% of shoppers, was “my coupons often expire before I have the chance to use them.” And expiration dates are the one thing about coupons that have not improved so far this year. The average redemption period has shrunk to 2.1 months, down 7.7% from this time last year.

So higher-value coupons alone don’t tell the whole story. They’re not worth anything, if they expire before you even get to the store to use them.

It’s too soon to sound the alarm, and throw both your annual grocery budget and manufacturers’ marketing budgets into disarray. But the decline in coupon use so far this year is something worth watching, to see whether it’s a blip – or the beginning of a trend. If manufacturers keep churning them out, and we keep tossing them out, coupon issuers may be forced to change their tactics.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll even offer you coupons for things you actually want to buy.

Photo by samantha celera

3 Comments

  1. Interesting.
    According to Google trends though the term promo code or coupons are inclining.

  2. I think the savvier chains (like Target) are stepping in and offering more coupons, including coupons for food, fresh produce, and their own private label brands. I am seeing many more rebate offers for fresh produce in the various rebate apps right now as well, although I’m suspicious that’s just in honor of Earth Day.

  3. Fewer then ever food coupons and the food coupons available tend to be highly processed food; stores having become so difficult to use a coupon that it gets tiring and a lifetime supply of personal goods – those are my reasons for being pretty much burned out on couponing.

    Non existent $ off coupons make Publix too expensive to shop, leaving my other choices as WinnDixie, Walmart or Whole Foods. So Whole Foods it’s been, buying their house brands is as cheap as going to Publix. I seriously hope Publix “we’re coupon friendly” stores takes a hit in the pocketbook. They have considered themselves untouchable for too long and it’s time for a reality check.

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