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Internet Coupons Stretch Commissary Customers' Savings

By Bonnie Powell
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT LEE, Va., Oct. 13, 2004 – Commissary shoppers are among the top coupon clippers in the world, but the "clipping" part may someday be history. The Defense Commissary Agency is helping customers increase their savings by making Internet coupon links available under a new section of the links page on the agency's Web site.

"Although we sell groceries at cost, we are always seeking new resources to help our customers increase their savings," said Patrick B. Nixon, the agency's chief executive officer. "As the trend toward Internet coupons grows, this section of our Web site will continue to grow as well."

Along with top Web sites for military grocery coupons, the new section has a link to a new site that offers a choice of English or Spanish; and for customers who prefer more traditional coupons, another link offers commissary shoppers the opportunity to sign up for coupons by mail.

According to a 2003 report by NCH Marketing Services, which specializes in coupon processing and promotion information management, military commissaries are among the top five retailers redeeming grocery coupons. The most common coupons offered are free-standing inserts, or FSIs, typically found inserted in newspapers or made available at the commissary. But the use of Internet coupons has grown substantially, with redemption rates rivaling FSIs.

Commissaries, as well as other grocery retailers, had stopped accepting home- printed coupons in September 2003 due to instances of fraud, but despite the industry ban, consumer use of Internet coupons flourished in general.

Forrester Research, an independent technology research company, has found that about 38 percent of U.S. households have printed at least one Internet coupon, according to Melissa Lederer, vice president of marketing and communications for CoolSavings, one of the leading Internet coupon Web sites. In addition, "CoolSavings has found that redemptions for the company's Internet coupons tend to be 5 percent to 10 percent higher than traditional offline coupons," said Lederer.

All 273 commissaries worldwide now accept computer-generated Internet coupons as long as they have a bar code for scanning purposes, and the coupons do not offer free product.

(Bonnie Powell is assigned to the Defense Commissary Agency.)

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