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Retailers View Coupons as 'New Weapon,' Says PMA Coupon Council

NEW YORK - Coinciding with the seventh annual National Coupon Month (September), the Promotion Marketing Association (PMA) Coupon Council released 2003 coupon distribution and usage data that showed manufacturers offered more than $250 billion in coupons in 2003, resulting in $3 billion in consumer savings. Total coupon spending by marketers was slightly up, from $6.8 billion to $7 billion.

The council also found that retailers are increasingly turning to coupon promotions to help attract, retain, and reward loyal shoppers -- in fact, in 2003, 46 percent of retailers reported offering some form of a bonus coupon program.

"Ranging from their own offers to doubling the face value of manufacturer's coupons, retailers view coupons as a new weapon in their competitive arsenal," said Lorraine Gallaher, co-chair of the PMA Coupon Council.

The average face value of manufacturers' coupons increased 4.9 percent to 85 cents -- more than double the pace of the Consumer Price Index, which climbed only 2.3 percent in 2003. The average expiration period remained relatively stable at three months.

"While the data clearly supports the use of coupons as a key promotion tactic to increase sales and brand loyalty, consumers do tend to take issue with too-short expiration dates," noted Charles Brown, co-chair of the PMA Coupon Council. "As tight restrictions can suppress the response and ROI on any coupon initiative, businesses might consider extending expiration dates allowing for greater consumer participation."

In 2003, coupons were distributed most often as free-standing inserts (79 percent), according to the council. As far as who's using coupons, age doesn't seem to make too much of a difference. The 55 to 64 age group has an 80 percent usage rate, but not too far behind are those aged 45 to 54 (79 percent usage) and the 35 to 44 age group (78 percent usage).

"It is interesting to note that the largest group of coupon users by education are those with the most advanced degrees -- post-graduates at 79 percent (as compared to 76 percent for high school and some college)," said Brown. "This further supports the notion that consumers of all demographics, including individuals in the highest income and education brackets, recognize the benefit of using coupons, making this promotional tactic ideal for any business looking to meet their business objectives."

Founded in late 1994, the PMA Coupon Council is an advocacy group for coupons within the Promotion Marketing Association. The group focuses on providing education on, and promoting the use of, couponing among manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

The statistics are available on the Coupon Council's year-round site,
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