Are Paper Coupons Dwindling? Yes. It's Not Your Imagination.
It’s been a slow fade for paper coupons and it’s not over yet. If you’ve been asking yourself: Are paper coupons dwindling? Yes. It’s not your imagination. And it’s quite a deliberate fade. Everyone from manufacturers to retailers to restaurants has really pulled back on printed coupons. By printed I mean the coupons that come in the stand-alone inserts in newspapers and those that you receive (or once received) in the mail.
The ongoing reduction in printed coupons is the result of a number of factors in the saving world.
First, in an effort to reduce coupon fraud, large manufacturers have already discontinued distribution of their coupons or newspaper inserts to entire regions. And the list of areas is growing all the time. One of the most well-known manufacturers to do this is Procter & Gamble (P&G) but there are others, including Valassis and Church & Dwight (makers of Arm & Hammer products). Instead of distributing as many actual coupons, these companies are opting to point shoppers to online coupon sources, typically within their own website or partner store apps.
How does this help reduce coupon fraud? Manufacturers have long been fighting the battle against coupon fairies – the term used for online coupon sellers and clipping companies. Coupon sellers claim to receive the coupons they sell from legitimate sources but investigations, arrests and lawsuits have proven that most suppliers are dealing in stolen goods. Entire pallets of coupon inserts have come up missing in major markets across the country, forcing manufacturers to completely stop distribution there.
Secondly, in an effort to increase profits, manufacturers are actively employing a three-prong strategy. They are reducing coupon availability (just overall), cutting package sizes and increasing prices once again. Products that were originally higher counts or more ounces have been reduced while retail prices have increased by as much as 10%. The third part of their strategy is to go beyond eliminating coupon distribution to entire regions and to release fewer coupons at all.
Their three-prong approach, so far, has manufacturers and brands elated. Sales reports support their hopes that shoppers will still happily buy their products – at higher prices and fewer discounts. This has bolstered the theory that not only can they continue cutting sizes and increasing prices, but they also don’t need to offer coupons as widely. Therefore, they aren’t going to. They are saving themselves cost, increasing their profit margins and simplifying how and where they offer deals. The result for shoppers is fewer coupons, higher grocery bills and the need to replenish products more frequently.
Gives Power to Apps and Digital Programs
Thirdly, in regards to restaurants and retailers, more now rely on the power of their apps and digital programs to offer deals and coupons. Cutting out the expense of printing and distributing coupons is one way they’re able to combat ever-increasing running costs. It’s for this same reason that more restaurants, in particular, have reduced the areas in which they distribute mailbox coupons. However, the most frequent coupons to be found are still for fast food and pizza. This is driven mainly by fierce competition, coupled with the slow adaptation of the average customer to mobile coupons. People are conditioned to looking for and clipping printed, paper coupons for pizza deals, in particular. But this is slowly shifting as well.
How can consumers still win?
The key to still winning at the saving game is simple: Go where the deals are.
Across the board, this is the best way to control your bills for groceries, restaurants and household goods. Despite the manufacturer and brand cuts, they are still forced to offer deals in order to work with retailers to sell their products. Use this to your advantage and study who is offering the best deals each week. It may not be convenient but it will save your budget.
Also, consider checking out lower-priced retailers you may have previously not tried. There are good values to be discovered at places like dollar stores and salvage grocery stores. Salvage grocers receive pallets of overstock from regular grocers and retailers. Note: Many of the goods at salvage stores are not “close dated” or “damaged” if that belief has kept you away before. Have one in your area? I urge you to check them out and see for yourself.
In conjunction with going where you can save, make digital coupon hunting and clipping part of your normal routine. When you can save big in a few categories, such as restaurants and on household products, it goes a long way to rebalance your budget. Two stores I highly recommend for great deals on household, health and beauty care are CVS and Walgreens.