We’ve lived through a global pandemic, inflation, shrinkflation, greedflation and more, watching our grocery bills go up and up. And now, it’s finally happened – shoppers who are interested in saving money are turning to coupons again.

We’re already a third of the way through 2024. But better late than never, a look at coupon statistics from 2023 shows that coupon use is finally on the rise, for the first time in a dozen years. And that’s especially notable, since the number of coupons actually available to use continues to sink to historic lows.

According to annual year-end reports from Inmar Intelligence and Vericast, shoppers appear to be hungry for savings. The two companies’ numbers don’t align exactly, but their conclusions are the same – despite the fact that there are fewer coupons available than there have been in decades, more shoppers are using more coupons in their quest for relief from rising grocery prices.

Inmar’s big takeaway is that “coupons are cool again.” Its annual Promotion Industry Analysis found that coupon redemption increased significantly last year, for the first time since there was a minor uptick way back in 2011, after which redemption decreased every single year. 850 million coupons were redeemed in 2023, up 10% from the year before. Digital coupon redemption jumped 31% to its highest level ever, while redemption of offers from newspaper coupon inserts continued its long decline. Digital now accounts for half of all coupons redeemed, while insert coupons are way down to only 7% of the total.

Vericast’s Year-End 2023 Coupon Facts report had different numbers, but similar sentiments. It pegged redemption figures at 725 million, up 7.4% from the previous year, with 57% of all redemptions in digital form. Interestingly enough, all of the redemption growth came in the food category – nonfood redemptions were exactly the same year over year, at 405 million, while the use of food coupons soared nearly 20%.

That’s the good news. The bad news is there are far fewer coupons out there to choose from.

Inmar found that the total number of coupons distributed last year was 101 billion, down an alarming 29% from the year before. That shatters the previous year’s record 20% decline, while the total number of available coupons is the lowest its been since 1980. Vericast has total distribution at an even lower 84 billion, down an even greater 38.5% from the year before.


So what are we to read into the fact that coupon use is rising, just as there are far fewer coupons to use? Distribution and redemption figures have been declining in tandem for years. Now that one is up and the other is down, it might be instructive to look at the coupon redemption rate – based on 2022 figures from Inmar, 0.54% of all coupons available were redeemed that year. Last year, that percentage – while still seemingly tiny – soared to 0.84%, representing a 64% year-over-year spike.

While there are fewer coupons out there, then, it might appear that those that are available are now too good to resist. Either that, or inflation-weary shoppers are so desperate for savings that they’ll take whatever they can get.

In a corresponding shopper survey, Inmar found that two-thirds of shoppers report using coupons on a regular basis. Three-quarters look for coupons before shopping, and half said they planned all of their grocery shopping based on coupons and sales. And much of the growth in coupon use is coming from younger shoppers, who are most likely to use coupons, and most likely to say that coupons influence their purchase decisions, prompting them to buy more, try a new item, or switch from a store brand to a name brand item.

Vericast surmised that increasing coupon values and a growing desire for savings on food could account for the rise in coupon use. “The average coupon face value rose by about 10%, outpacing the inflation rate” and “providing consumers much-needed savings,” Vericast’s report noted. The average coupon face value has risen to $2.99, up from $2.71 the year before. Coupons are lasting longer – the average duration before expiration is now 7.2 weeks, up from 5.8 weeks. And multiple purchase requirements are down – 19% of all coupons require the purchase or two or more items, down from 20% the year before.

So higher face values together with lower purchase requirements, means coupon users are getting greater savings per item purchased.

And shoppers are particularly interested in savings on food. For years, food coupons have been redeemed at a greater rate than food coupons have been issued. And this past year was no exception. Inmar and Vericast’s reports agreed, in finding that 44% of all coupons redeemed were for food items, even though they represented less than a fifth of all coupons distributed. While there are fewer coupons available overall, a greater percentage of them were for food items this past year, suggesting that the types of coupons issued and the types of coupons redeemed are beginning to align a bit more closely.

Historically, coupon use has always increased during times of economic uncertainty. So you might have thought coupon use would have soared a few years ago and kept rising since then. Instead, it took a few years for modern coupon use to catch up with history. Now, with coupon use finally on the rise, newly-engaged coupon-clippers can only hope coupons are valuable and plentiful enough to help this trend continue for years to come.

Image source: Schnucks, background image: Schnucks

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