Monday, September 28, 2009

How Mary Lou Retton saves me money

We use coupons a lot at Kitchentablenomics. Have for a long time.

We don't go back to 1895, when breakfast cereal baron C.W. Post first offered a penny discount on the new cereal Grape Nuts, but General Mills and a campaign featuring 1984 Olympics gold medalist Mary Lou Retton still cuts 25 cents off future boxes of Wheaties we buy. No-expiration-date coupons were a lot more common back in the Reagan era and before.

Knocking anwhere from a few cents to several dollars off the price of virtually everything merchants sell in America is a big deal. We consumers who clip coupons each get a sliver of what the Coupon Council of the Promotional Marketers Association calculates to be $3 billion worth of coupons redeemed annually. We toss even more, because vendors offer $400 billion, the association reports.

New York Times reporter Stephanie Rosenbloom over the weekend ran a story about a coupon clipping renaissance that's been blossoming since the recession hit. But there may be more than a recession reaction going on.

Nielsen Company, the global sales tracking giant, reports affluent shoppers are more likely than less fortunate ones to use coupons more heavily. That could just mean they are shopping more than the rest of us because they've got money to do that with.

But Mack Hoopes, an executive with marketing giant Henkel Consumer Goods, says that company's research shows shoppers fall into three categories - shoptimizers, mainstreeters and carefrees - who all use coupons differently. The shoptimizers are the most aggressive users and may simply be in the stores longer right now.

Back at Kitchentablenomics home base, meanwhile, our Mary Lou Retton coupon collection may be threatened. Technology is changing coupon clipping too and now J.C. Penney is looking to deliver coupons through cell phones instead of the Sunday paper.


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