The big story from the guys who offer competitive coupon tracking is that fewer coupons were distributed in 2011 via the FSI. 6.5% fewer, to be exact. And that's after two consecutive years of significant increases in distribution.
And not just down in terms of distribution. Almost all of the dials were turned down:
- Fewer coupons (272 billion, a 6.5% decline)
- Lower face values ($1.55, a 0.2% drop per coupon and a 2.0% drop per item)
- Fewer pages with coupons (205 billion or a 3.5% decline)
- Less discount value available ($421 billion, a 6.7% decline)
- Shorter expiration periods (-5.2%, down to 8.1 weeks)
Interestingly, the strongest sector of FSI distribution is retail. Not only did Marx report a 31% increase in retailer promotion pages, some big retailers continued to invest in them. Notably, Walmart beat out Dollar General for the top spot while Target, Walgreens and PetSmart rounded out the top 5. But retailers are really just now getting in on the act and only one traditional grocery player (Kroger) broke the top 10. So there's likely more distribution growth where that came from.
Brands, on the other hand, are old hands at the FSI, sponsoring the lion's share of the 272 billion coupons distributed last year. Despite the reduced distribution in 2011 - due, I believe, primarily to overredemption concerns - brands will continue to heavily invest in FSI programs for their predictability, reach and results.