SoCal shoppers got some bad news yesterday when word got out that the new Vons/Pavilions ad states that as of August 1, 2012, coupons will only be accepted at face value. When I stopped in at Vons this morning, they had signs up at the register about the new coupon policy. Since Ralphs stopped doubling in the spring, the move leaves Albertsons as the only local chain that doubles coupons, and even then only with a Twice the Value coupon and in limited quantities – and it seems like only a matter of time before Albertsons stops doubling altogether, and/or is sold off to a competitor.
From what I’ve read about couponing, manufacturers reimburse stores for the face value of the coupon, but the “doubled” value is covered by the store. So, by ceasing to double coupons, stores automatically increase their profit margin – assuming, of course, that people keep shopping there.
The economy has been so bad for so long now, and coupon use has increased dramatically. My guess is that the increased redemption of coupons, especially at grocery stores, is noticeably affecting the bottom line of retailers. From their point of view, why not experiment with ceasing doubling and see if customers keep shopping anyway?
The most effective way to “fight back” as a customer is to not shop at Ralphs and Vons anymore. If stores see that their coupon policy is keeping customers away instead of creating an incentive for them to come in, they’ll go back to their old ways. In fact, Tia reminded me when Ralphs changed their policy a few months ago, that they and Vons did away with doubles completely a few years back, but it didn’t last.
My hope is that will happen again. Without substantial loss leaders to attract customers, the mainstream markets become less attractive when customers have choices like Trader Joe’s, plus all of the smaller, ethnic markets in Los Angeles and all of SoCal.
Personally, I’ve found myself shopping much less often at Ralphs than I did before the coupon policy changed. And that will probably be the case for me with Vons as well. During the big grocery workers’ strike almost ten years ago, many shoppers turned to Trader Joe’s and never looked back. In fact, that was when I started doing most of my grocery shopping at TJ’s and it was only couponing that drew me back to Ralphs about four years ago. I think something similar might happen again. What do you think?