Supermarket group Colruyt has declared war on the practice of “extreme couponing” – when shoppers collect money-off coupons to buy up large numbers of the products on offer.
Discount coupons are a well-established promotional tool to stimulate sales of slow-moving stock or even simply to get customers into the one shop rather than another.
Coupons are typically made available in newspapers or special publicity folders delivered door to door. Nowadays they can also be obtained online, and the Facebook group Promojagers, for example, has 180,000 followers all looking for bargains.
The problem with extreme couponing is the lengths to which practitioners will go.
While most if not all coupons make it clear only one coupon is valid for one purchase, extreme couponing fans gather multiple copies of the same coupon, then buy up as many of the same product as they have coupons for.
The result is not only a logjam at the checkout, with staff having to make sense of a pile of coupons, but also empty shelves, as these customers buy up large amounts of stock on promotion.
Colruyt has now taken the step of limiting each customer to five of the same coupons. The rule applies across the group, including its Okay and BioPlanet subsidiaries.
The decision regularises what was already an ad hoc decision made by local supermarket managers, explains Geert Elen, responsible for checkouts in the group.
“We found there were various measures in place,” he told the VRT. “While the Colruyt in Halle limited the number of coupons to a certain number, the shop in Leuven had a different limit. Everyone was doing something different. So we decided to take one measure that applies for the whole group.”
The company was keen to stress that the measure only applies to a very small minority of customers. The limit comes into force on 2 March.
“It’s important to Colruyt not to turn customers away,” Elen said. “Everyone is still welcome. But we hope this measure is clear to everyone, as much for our staff as for customers.”