132-Couponing and Price Leaders

In the bleak economy in the first half of 2009, coupon redemption rose 19% compared to the same period in 2008. Even the largest Price Leaders (see Audio Tip #83: Price Leader Products and Companies on StrategyStreet.com) have had to go along with this development. The three largest discount clubs, Costco Warehouse, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club have increased their couponing to club members. (See Audio Tip #120: Using Low Price to Gain Share in Hostile Markets.)

Each of these three clubs carries a membership fee to join the retailer. These club membership payments entitle the retail shopper to take advantage of the large scale purchase economies each of these stores enjoys. The stores pass on these purchasing economies in the form of low prices for their members. Often these low prices alone are enough to provide these club-oriented retailers with attractive sales growth. However, even they have suffered in the bad economy of 2009 as consumers have spent less on discretionary items.

Now each chain is offering tailored coupons to selected members. Sam’s Club offers electronic coupons through kiosks at its stores. Today these coupons are offered to its highest paying membership categories, the Advantage and Business Plus cardholders. With the new coupon program, these selected members will receive three new coupons, good for about a month.

BJ’s has traditionally accepted manufacturers’ coupons which Sam’s does not accept. In the last few years, it has also provided members with coupons available at its web site for purchases in its stores.

Costco has been offering once-a-year coupon books, containing discounts with expiration dates staggered throughout the year. This keeps customers coming back to take advantage of the discounts. About a year ago, it began sending monthly coupon books with discounts expiring after four weeks.

In a tough market, even the lowest-priced of the Price Leaders have to offer something extra to keep the customers coming in.

A coupon is a form of discount (see Audio Tip #114: The Key Components of a Price on StrategyStreet.com), the method a company uses to convey a discount to a customer. Our research has determined that there are eight other forms of discount. Many of these forms reduce the cost of the discount to the company, while giving the full value of the discount to the customer.

Posted 8/27/09


Couponing is still a major pricing practice in 2022. The increasing sophistication of computer systems enables retailers to offer personalized coupons to their customers, targeting products and categories the individual customer commonly purchases. Over 90% of US shoppers use coupons regularly. The number of US digital coupon users reached 145 million in 2021.

The growth of the Internet and the nearly universal acceptance of mobile phone technology are beginning to revolutionize the coupon industry. In 2021, the industry developed a universal digital coupon format using a serialized “8112” barcode. This universal coupon can be scanned and validated by participating retailers through a centralized system at the point-of-sale. Consumers will have more freedom of choice to use coupons on their mobile devices at any participating retailer. The technology is also more secure and offers a more traceable format for manufacturers and retailers. This innovation is rolling out in 2022.

The low cost of couponing due to technology and the ease with which a customer can use tech-based coupons promise to make this form of discounting even more pervasive in the future. Companies should respond promptly. See HERE for what we mean.



If you face a competitive marketplace, read these blogs. We wrote them to help you make better decisions on segments, products, prices and costs based on the experience of companies in over 85 competitive industries. Much of the world suffered a severe recession from 2008 to 2011. During that time, we wrote more than 270 blogs using publicly available information and our Strategystreet system to project what would happen in various companies and industries who were living in those hostile environments. In 2022, we updated each of these blogs to describe what later took place. You can use these updated blogs to see how the Strategystreet system works and how it can lead you to better decisions.