Questions, answers on couponing

The following responses were obtained from consumer studies conducted by NCH Analytical Services, which has been conducting tracking studies of coupon usage trends since 1971.Q. What is a coupon?

A. A coupon is a sampling or trial-generating device that offers a cents-off discount to the consumer. It's an effective means of delivering a controlled, short-term price incentive directly to the consumer.

Q. Who uses coupons?

A. NCH estimates that up to 77 percent of all households save and redeem coupons to some degree. While both men and women use coupons, the percentage of women coupon users if greater. Coupons are used by a large majority of all ethnic groups. Coupon users tend to be in the 31-35 and 46-plus age groups. However, coupon users in the 36-45 age group are more likely to be heavy coupon users. Heavy coupon users are defined as shoppers who use nine or more cents-off coupons per week.

Q. Does household composition influence coupon use?

A. Yes. It is an important determinant of who uses coupons and how much they use. The "traditional" American household -married, single income with children - are the most likely to use coupons. Coupon usage among single people is less. Single people with children are heavy users of coupons while double income, no children households are light users of coupons.

Q. Does income level influence coupon use?

A. NCH Analytical Services' studies that coupon usage is very broad-based in terms of income level. For example, in the $20-25,000 per year income level, 70 percent of shoppers use coupons, with 34 percent being heavy coupon users of nine or more coupons per week. Likewise, 77 percent of households with income exceeding $50,000 per year use coupons, with 38 percent being heavy coupon users.

Q. Has coupon distribution grown during the last few years?

A. Very much so. According to NCH, coupon distribution increased by approximately 64 percent from 1984-1989, which far surpassed the growth in U.S. households during the same period. The average annual increase in coupon distribution for the decade from 1980-1989 was 12.7 percent. There were 267.6 billion coupons distributed in 1989.

Q. What accounts for the growth in coupon distribution?

A. Most packaged goods manufacturers use coupons to introduce new products to consumers. There have been a considerable amount of product introductions during the past decade. There also is a broader range of products that have cents-off incentives.

Q. Has coupon redemption also increased?

A. Coupon redemption increased about 14 percent between 1984 and 1989. After peaking in 1987, coupon redemption has leveled off. However, redemption is still strong. Over 7 billion manufacturer cents-off coupons were redeemed in 1989, up from 3.8 billion in 1980.