Food & Grocery Retailing in the Recession: Online Coupons
Fresh & Easy Buzz has been reporting, writing about and offering extensive analysis on the recessionary mega-trend that has consumers seeking out and using more and more manufacturers' grocery coupons in the current economic recession. [See the linked bibliography at the end of this piece for a selection of those stories.]
Now comes a fresh report from Coupons.com, the popular Internet-based, online coupon Web site, that it experienced a whopping 192% increase in the value of coupons printed from its site in March 2009 (last month), compared with a year ago. The total value of the coupons printed out by consumers was $57 million.
"Consumers printed a record amount of (coupon) savings in March, almost tripling the amount printed last year," Coupons.com CEO Steven R. Boal says. "Consumers are using digital coupons to save on virtually everything they spend money on, from food to household essentials to entertainment items. We see no slowdown in sight."
Coupons.com CEO Boal says his company's business has been growing about 25% every month since the recession began. He sees continued growth, even beyond the 25% increase each month.
According to recent research conducted by the market research firm Comscore, coupon Web sites have been the second-most-visited category on the internet, right behind job sites like Monster.com, Hot Jobs and Career Builder, for about a year. Comscore focuses on measuring and analyzing what goes on in the digital world.
The recession officially began in December, 2007. But its demonstable evidence presented itself in about February-March 2008, right about the same time consumers started using sites like Coupons.com in growing numbers.
Coupon sites had 28 million unique visitors in February, up 41% from the year before, when they drew 20 million, says Andrew Lippsman of Comscore. Coupons.com had the biggest share of the category, with 6.6 million unique visitors, up 29% from 5 million the year before. Eversave.com came in second, with 5.5 million unique visitors in February, according to the research firm's data.
Manufacturer-distributed online coupons for food, grocery and related consumer packaged goods items comprise the majority of online coupon offerings.
Ready-to-eat cereal was the most popular category for coupon usage on Coupons.com in February and March 2009, followed by baby products and baking ingredients, according to the Web site's report.
Diet aids and yogurt rounded out the top five categories.
Laundry supplies and personal care entered the top 10 in March, while salty and convenience snacks fell off the list, after ranking in the top five in February.
In other words, basics and essentials are currently the top item coupons being downloaded from the site by consumers.
Coupons.com offers coupons from packaged goods giants like Kellogg's, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Kimberly-Clark, Del Monte Foods, McCormick, Kraft Foods, Clorox and numerous others. The Web site also offers coupons for private label food, grocery and related packaged goods items from retailers like Kroger Co., Safeway Stores, Inc. and the CVS drug chain, along with a few others.
The data from Coupons.com and Comscore fits with a research report Fresh & Easy Buzz conducted and published on the Blog on March 7, 2009, in which we charted the fast-growing search volume on the search engines Google and Yahoo Search for the search term "grocery coupons." Read the story here: Google & Yahoo - The Tale of the Search Engines: An Analysis of How Tesco's Fresh & Easy is Losing Out By Not Accepting Manufacturers' Grocery Coupons.
Tesco's Fresh & Easy
Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market doesn't accept manufacturers coupons in its 116 combination grocery and fresh foods stores located in California (Southern and Bakersfield), southern Nevada and Metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona. As a result, the retailer is unable to gain the business and sales from shoppers who, as all the data demonstrates, are using grocery coupons regularly and in increasing numbers.
Conversely we aren't aware of one major mainstream grocery chain or independent of any significance in California, Nevada and Arizona that doesn't accept manufacturers' grocery coupons. In fact most all of the grocery chains and independents encourage and promote the practice, including partnering with manufacturers' to run coupons good only at their specific stores in their retailer weekly ad circulars and on their respective Web sites.
Since Tesco's Fresh & Easy is the lone wolf food retailer in its markets in not accepting the manufacturers' grocery coupons, it's sort of the odd grocer out in the eyes of many shoppers --particularly in the current recession as more and more consumers who never before used the coupons are doing so now and with increased frequency -- in our research and analysis.
Retailers get paid back by the manufacturers that issue the coupons for the entire face-value discount amount of each coupon they redeem, along with a three -to-five cent per coupon handling charge. The retailers don't have to send the redeemed coupons to each manufacturer. Rather, they send them to a central coupon clearing house that handles the reimbursement.
In contrast, coupons issued by retailers like Tesco's Fresh & Easy for a certain dollar amount off of a minumum total purchase -- like Fresh & Easy's $5-off $20 and $6-off $30 store coupons -- come out of the retailer's profit margins. This is the primary reason you aren't seeing Tesco's Fresh & Easy distributed the $5-off and $6-off store coupons on a regular basis anymore.
Yet the retailer doesn't accept the manufacturers' grocery coupons. It's a rather strange practice in the eyes of most experienced grocers and industry analysts like Fresh & Easy Buzz, especially because Fresh & Easy Neighborhood market needs all of the added sales it can get.
Changing its operating policy immediatly to accepting the manufacturers' coupons, and then promoting that change widely, would be one of the easiest and least expensive retail operations changes Tesco's Fresh & Easy could make as a way to position itself for increased sales, in the current recession and once it is over. But apparently the grocery chain doesn't think that's the case. We do. [Suggested related reading - March 7, 2009: Analysis & Commentary: The Seven Retail Operations Changes Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Needs to Make to Help it Get On the Success Track.
Below is a linked bibliography of some of Fresh & Easy Buzz's recent reports, stories and analysis on the grocery coupon topic and issue, as mentioned in the first paragraph of this story:
>April 5, 2009: Food & Grocery Retailing in the 21rst Century: New Study Says Younger Consumers Getting Hip to Online Coupons; Particularly Mobile Couponing
>March 19, 2009: Ground Control to Shopper: Point-of-Purchase-Based Mobile Couponing the Next Hot Ticket; Kroger Co. Leading the Food Retailing Pack.]
>March 9, 2009: >March 9, 2009: Consumer Use and Retailer Redemption of Manufacturers' Coupons Soaring Says Leading Redemption Company in the U.S.; But Not at Tesco's Fresh & Easy
>March 7, 2009: Google & Yahoo - The Tale of the Search Engines: An Analysis of How Tesco's Fresh & Easy is Losing Out By Not Accepting Manufacturers' Grocery Coupons
>February 12, 2009: >February 12, 2009: Consumer Use of Manufacturers' 'Cents Off' Coupons Continues to Grow: The Latest American Rage: Home Coupon-Clipping and Coupon-Trading Parties
>February 3, 2009: >February 3, 2009: Competitor News: 'Grocer-Gone-Wild:' Arizona's Fry's and its 'Bring it On' 'Take All Competitors' (Including Tesco's Fresh & Easy) Store Coupon Move
>December 12, 2008: December 12, 2008: December 12, 2008: Marketing & Promotions Report: Manufacturers' Coupons Becoming the 'New Black;' Use Among Consumers Soaring; Marketers Distributing More Than Before
>December 6, 2008: Use of Manufacturers' Coupons Soaring Among U.S. Consumers; Coupon Delivery Systems Going High-Tech; But Fresh & Easy Stores Don't Accept the Coupons
>November 26, 2008: Consumer Briefing: The New, Frugal and Near-Broke American Consumer is Staying Home For the Holidays
>August 24, 2008: Sunday Supplement: 'America's Cheapest Family' Helping to Spur Increased Use of Manufacturers' Coupons At the Grocery Store; Accept At Fresh & Easy
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