Amount of coupons issued, used jumped in 2009

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Last year saw the first year-over-year increase in coupon redemption since 1992, according to a report from transaction settlement provider Inmar.

Consumers redeemed 3.3 billion consumer packaged goods coupons in 2009, compared to 2.6 billion the year before. Marketers embraced the behavioral shift, distributing 367 billion coupons in total — the highest number on record since Inmar began tracking coupon use in 1988. The firm released the data on January 25.

“Over the past 18 to 24 months, we've seen CPG companies increase their couponing,” said Jesse Aversano, EVP of marketing for News America Marketing, the distributor of the SmartSource Magazine coupon book. “We've also seen clients buy a corresponding ad for retailers. For example, they'll say ‘This product is on sale for $1.99, but if you use this coupon to your right at this retailer, now it only costs you $1.49.'”

Though online coupons nearly doubled in distribution — companies released 92% more in 2009 than 2008 — and consumers redeemed 360% more, the dominant coupon-distribution model was still the troubled newspaper sector. Eighty-nine percent of all coupons were distributed in newspaper free-standing inserts, and more than half of those redeemed came from that source last year.

“Right now, the channel that's growing the fastest is online, and more manufacturers are putting their coupons online,” Aversano said. “But newspapers are something of a ritual — I get my coffee, look through my newspaper, get my shopping list. Some people may have been missing it, and now they're clipping more than they have before because they're rediscovering it. Coupons are hot again.”

What remains to be seen, Aversano added, is how the trend toward increased couponing and redemption will affect marketers as the economy shows signs of resuscitating. Some marketers will be able to decrease their couponing, but others may have to increase the amount of coupons they issue, he said.

“The recession has created smarter shoppers — I think they've changed how and what they buy forever,” he said. “I think we have a very frugal consumer now.”

Inmar referred calls seeking comment to Aversano.

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