The country's recession may have officially ended in October, but consumers continued to shop frugally, driving coupon use to record-setting highs. According to Inmar, Winston-Salem, N.C., which tracks promotional transactions, coupon use in 2009 reached its highest levels since the company began tracking the numbers in 1988. In addition, for the first time in 17 years, customers used more coupons than in the previous year, redeeming 3.3 billion packaged-goods coupons, a 27 percent increase from 2008.
“Freestanding inserts (FSIs) continue to make up almost 90 percent of coupon distribution, and over half of all coupons redeemed are from FSIs,” said Matthew Tilley, director of marketing for Inmar's promotion services division. “That big dog grew at an even faster rate than overall coupon growth last year, a 36 percent increase to the overall growth of 27 percent. Despite the readership decline in newspapers, people are still willing to go back to their Sunday newspapers for coupons.”
Coupon use wasn't the only aspect of product promotion that rose in 2009. Distribution also saw an increase, with companies issuing 367 billion coupons with an average face value of $1.44. Food-related coupons ruled the first half of 2009, with non-food coupons driving up numbers in the latter half of the year. Online coupons, while a small portion of overall coupon use, saw a distribution increase of 92 percent and a redemption increase of more than 36 percent.