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Extreme couponing – is a phrase that I came across in the Knowledge@Wharton newsletter to describe the way hard-pressed value conscious consumers in North America are using offline vouchers and online resources including comparison shopping and coupon websites to make their grocery spend to go further. Having worked on FMCG programs rolled out in North America, the continued power of local newspaper and electronic coupons are famous.
Coupons and extreme couponing were historically associated with thrifty older consumers who carried on family traditions developed during and post the great depression.
Some US supermarket retailers built up a reputation for being ‘coupon friendly’ stores. But that might present its own problems. The average basket value might be much lower. Also the productivity of cashiers might be lower as they have to process all the coupons submitted. If the coupons aren’t valid for that supermarket that might result in a customer stand-off that needs to be resolved with the help of store management.
The more astute of you may remember seeing coupon clipping and usage in historic episodes of Roseanne (what then become The Conners).
Which begs the question what’s new that’s driving extreme couponing now? The answer seems to be a combination of food price inflation, low-to-no wage growth and an uncertain economy with high unemployment has led consumers to change their shopping. Pharmacy chains like Walgreens have benefited from business previously done as a one-stop shop in the supermarket since they will accept coupons for personal hygiene and cleaning products. The big issue is for the major brand companies like General Mills, Unilever and Procter & Gamble who are seeing brand loyalty eroded.
Alongside an increase in coupon adoptions you are seeing bulk buying to hedge against inflation, rather than consumers trying to save the money itself in bank account. More retailing related content can be found here.