The weak economy is creating a nation of coupon clippers.
Bargain-hungry shoppers redeemed 4.1-billion coupons in the first six months of the year, an increase of 10 percent from a year earlier, according to NCH Promotional Services Inc., a large coupon processing firm in Chicago.
And manufacturers, in response to the demand for cost savings, issued 193-billion coupons in that period, an increase of 7 percent, according to CMS Inc., a coupon processor in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Industry sources said for the full year the percentage of coupons redeemed would probably be about 7.7 percent, the same rate as last year because of the increase in availability.
CMS said that in 1991 "the recession seemed to jump-start consumer response to couponing," with the redemption rate increasing by 5 percent over 1990.
"There is a strong link between consumer confidence and coupon usage," said Jane Perrin, senior vice president of marketing for NCH. "Since the end of 1990, we've seen a growth in coupon usage among consumers because of the economic situation."
Kerry J. Smith, managing editor of Promo magazine, said that the latest wave of coupon use seemed to be attracting more than the traditional customers. In the past the typical coupon user had an annual income of $29,000.
A recent NCH survey found that 74 percent of those who earn more than $50,000 a year have used coupons, compared with 86 percent of those who earn between $40,000 and $50,000. The survey also found that 83 percent of those who earn less than $15,000 have used coupons.