Some stores release coupons so frequently that their customers would almost be crazy to pay full price. According to data that deal site DealScience.com ran for MarketWatch, covering between 3,000 and 4,000 brands, the average major retailer releases just over one new coupon each week. (DealScience looked at coupons released online, not via apps, and excluded coupons mailed to consumers or in-store circulars.)
Some retailers, like Best Buy and BigLots, very rarely release store wide coupons (coupons that are good for nearly everything in the store or for free-shipping site wide), while others release them approximately once a month, says Brandon Hunt, the co-founder of DealScience.com. More frequently, stores release coupons for certain items or types of items in its inventory (like, say, a sale in the shoe department). The most frequent discount amount is 20% off, adds Cory O’Daniel, the company co-founder. All that said, some stores release coupons much more often than others, and at those places, “you should never buy anything that’s full price,” says Matthew Ong, a senior retail analyst at NerdWallet.com.
It’s never been easier to find and use coupons, thanks to your smartphone. The Coupons.com and Coupon Sherpa apps have tons of deals on groceries and everyday items; and RetailMeNot’s app uses your GPS and then will message you to let you know if there is a coupon for a store that you’re near. Often you can hold up your smartphone at the register to redeem the coupon, so you don’t even have to deal with printing coupons.
Plus, savvy consumers can combine coupon deals with other offers to save even more. You can often use a coupon to increase the discount on a sale item, or combine it with a free shipping offer or sometimes even another coupon. And increasingly, you can do all that and earn loyalty points at the store, which you can later redeem for freebies. Try an app like Saving Star or Cellfire, which store all of your loyalty cards and then send you deals from those stores, to make the process easier.
There are some caveats with couponing. Some stores will raise the price of an item and then issue a coupon for it — which means that when you use the coupon to buy the item you might not really be saving anything, says Ong. “You have to do an upfront price compare,” he says. (The RedLaser and ShopSavvy apps can help with this, as they let you scan an items’ bar code and then give you prices for that item at other retailers.) And, since consumers are more tempted to buy things when they have a coupon, they have to be careful that they aren’t buying items they don’t really need.
Still, coupons can be a great way to save. And, at these five stores — which release coupons or deals the most frequently — it’s almost silly not to use them:
1. Sears — by far — releases coupons the most often, as it typically sends out 21 a week (yes, you read that right), DealScience.com data reveals. Of course, the coupons aren’t usually for the entire store (they’re often just for one department), but the store gives consumers an average of 11 days from the time they were released to get the deal. The most common discounts are 10% and 20% off.
2. Macy’s releases a new coupon nearly every day (they average more than six coupons/discount offers a week) and the deals are usually good for roughly a week. The most common offers are typically 15% to 20% off items from a certain department (say home goods, or shoes) and free shipping. Also, if you open a Macy’s credit card you can save an additional 15% on the first day you open it and the day after; just be sure to pay off the bill in its entirety, since interest rates on store cards tend to be high.
3. Sally Beauty Supply releases an average of more than five coupons per week — but perhaps most remarkable is the fact that the average length before expiration is an unusually long 24 days. The most common discounts are 20% and 25% off.
4. Gap averages nearly four coupons or discounts each week — the average expiration is 10 days — with 20% and 25% offers on rotating categories of items the most common among them. Frequent Gap shoppers may want to combine this offer with a Gap credit card, as it gives you a $10 reward card for every $200 you spend at Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta (all of which are owned by Gap Inc.).
5. Jewelry.com This online retailer sends out nearly three coupons a week and gives consumers an average of 18 days in which to redeem them. Even better for consumers, some of its most common deals are for 70% to 80% off (just be sure to do a price comparison on those items to make sure the deal is still a good one).
Catey Hill covers personal finance and travel for MarketWatch in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CateyHill. This article originally appeared on MarketWatch.com and is reprinted by permission from Marketwatch.com, ©2014 Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.
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