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March 12, 2001

By Kate Fitzgerald

A wave of consolidations among consumer package-goods companies lowered the total number of coupons distributed last year, but the average face value of coupons offered to consumers increased significantly.

The total number of coupons distributed by manufacturers declined 3% to 248 billion in 2000, according to an annual report by NCH, Lincolnshire, Ill.

Eight major consumer-goods marketers trimmed their couponing programs as part of their pre-consolidation strategies during the year, said Charles K. Brown, vice president at NCH, a coupon processing and promotion information management company. Had it not been for these cutbacks, U.S. coupon volumes would have remained relatively consistent with 1999's, he said.

Predicts coupon increase
Joining other coupon experts, Mr. Brown predicted the current economic downturn will spur an uptick in coupon distribution as marketers shift gears to stimulate sales.

Consumers redeemed fewer coupons in 2000-a total of 4.5 billion, down 4.2% from 1999. The average value of coupons redeemed was 79¢, while the average value of coupons distributed by manufacturers increased 5.5% to 77¢.

The average duration of coupons from distribution to expiration remained flat at 14 weeks; the incidence of coupons requiring consumers to buy more than one unit of the promoted product to quality for savings increased one share percentage to 24% of all coupons distributed."

No. 1 coupon category: diapers
The categories that show the highest growth in couponing were disposable diapers, followed by paper products; pet treats; cheese; snacks; household cleaners; condiments, gravies and sauces; vitamins; toothpaste; and canned vegetables.

Coupons distributed electronically inside supermarkets as well as over the Internet accounted for less than half a percentage point share of the 248 billion coupons distributed in 2000, but the electronic segment is growing and new Internet coupon channels are expected to take hold this year, NCH said.

"The four-year growth trend and strong consumer response to [electronic couponing] indicate continued expansion of the medium in the future," Mr. Brown said.

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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