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The good news is that the face values of the coupons in your Sunday newspaper inserts are on the rise. The bad news – well, there’s a lot of bad news.

The first in a series of mid-year coupon trend reports shows some worrying signs that, despite their higher values, coupons are not nearly as good as they used to be. And stores’ weekly sales promotions aren’t looking so hot, either.

Kantar Media reports that $281 billion worth of insert coupons were distributed in the first half of 2015, up an impressive 5.5% from the same time last year. The average face value was also up, to $1.80.

But high values aren’t everything. Just about every other statistic about coupons and sales shows that those Sunday coupon inserts and ads are becoming a lot less attractive.

The total number of insert coupons available actually declined by about 1%, to 156 billion. The average expiration also decreased to 6.5 weeks, down more than 7%. That, Kantar says, marks the eighth consecutive year of declining expiration lengths during the first half of the year.

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Even the reported increase in coupons’ value is somewhat deceiving. The average face value of food coupons was somewhat flat, and the number of coupons for edible items was down an alarming 10%. So you can’t rely on insert coupons to help feed your family the way you used to. Most of the increase in coupons’ value can be attributed to pricier nonfood items, like health care and personal care products, which now account for more than two-thirds of all insert coupons available.

So coupons may be worth more, but the vast majority of them can only be used on non-edible products that cost more. In the end, then, you’re not necessarily saving more. If anything, you may be spending more to put food on your table.

But at least you’ll be well-medicated, and smell nice.

Kantar also examined stores’ weekly circulars, and found that CVS isn’t the only one experimenting with cutting back on them. Kantar counted 99 retailers that ran sales ads during the first six months of the year – down from 125 in the first half of last year. Similarly, the number of manufacturers participating in retailer promotions dropped more than 20%.

You might think that shoppers would balk at the lack of good deals, sending sales and coupon redemption rates down accordingly. And you might be right. Other companies are planning their own midyear coupon reports – and early indications are that their findings are not going to be pretty.

Whether retailers and manufacturers adjust their promotional strategies accordingly, remains to be seen. Otherwise, consumers who have long counted on getting good deals that just aren’t there anymore, may be the ones in for a big adjustment.

Photo by rose3694

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