Inmar Inc. | April 30, 2012

It was a casual statement, almost an afterthought.

The woman said, "I save on the things I need so we can buy the things we want."

She was a consumer at the annual industry coupon conference hosted by the Association of Coupon Professionals, participating in panel discussion, curated and moderated by the folks at ALL YOU Magazine. And her statement came in response to a question about why she uses coupons.

Just one woman's reasoning and it shouldn't be taken as representing any number of households. But, still, it so very nicely sums up the changing attitudes among shoppers regarding coupon use: from almost panicked use just a couple of years ago to today's more thoughtful coupon use that's part of a new measured frugality.

Coupons are no longer perceived -- as they they were in the late 1990's and early 2000's -- as something to ignore or even disdain. But they aren't quite the "must have" accessory that they were in 2009 when redemption shot up nearly 30 percent. Instead, they are an important part of the American shopping context, enabling "smart living."

I'm not sure this is entirely bad news even if your brand is more of "a thing she needs" rather than "a thing she wants." The issue is more about figuring out how your product fits in her shopping basket and optimizing your promotional efforts to maintain and grow a solid position.