Coupon usage and distribution down

MANUFACTURER coupon distribution has slipped for the first time since 1970, according to research conducted by NCH Promotional Services.

In 1993, coupon distribution was just under 300 billion, down by about 3 percent from 1992. In addition, manufacturers reduced the window of time coupons could be used from four months in 1992 to three months in 1993.

NCH, a promotion information division of Dun & Bradstreet in Lincolnshire, Ill., attributes the decline in distribution to changes in manufacturers' promotional strategies. ``Coupons are still the most widely used promotional vehicle, but some manufacturers have decided to cut back on the price-coupon spiral, instead using coupons more selectively as a targeted promotional tool,'' says Jane Perrin, senior vice president of marketing for NCH.

Coupon redemption also is down by about 12 percent. Consumers redeemed about 6.8 billion manufacturer coupons in 1993, down from about 7.7 billion in 1992. The decrease in redemptions is associated with the shorter life span of coupons, but it also points to an improving economy, according to NCH, which has tracked coupon usage for the past 30 years. Historically, when the economy gets better, coupon usage goes down.

Coupons are hardly on their way to extinction, however. As long as consumers want to save money, they will keep using coupons, Ms. Perrin notes: ``In this decade alone, consumers have saved more than $15 billion using coupons.''

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