Extreme couponers: Shoppers seek deals amid high food costs, weak loonie

TORONTO -- As the founder of savings blog Coupon Nannie, Dana Calder is always looking for a good bargain -- and she's had plenty of company lately.

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The number of questions on her Facebook page has skyrocketed since January, and she says most of the inquiries are related to food.

"Right now, obviously groceries -- especially fruits and vegetables -- are so expensive," said the North River, N.S., resident.

Calder likes to keep site visitors and social media followers in the loop about added ways to retain cash through shop-and-save cashback apps like Checkout 51 and Zweet. But even with a wealth of digital options currently available, she still makes a point of poring through printed flyers each week to circle items that look like good deals.

"I always take coupons with me," said Calder, who keeps a folder of discount vouchers. "You never know when you'll go the store and find a sale."

Whether flyers are printed on paper or scanned for sharing online, the traditional promotional tools are proving to be more valuable than ever to cost-conscious consumers in a tough economy. As a result, distributors of discount-touting ads are seeking to widen their reach of potential shoppers.

Flyergo recently launched its sealed flyer packs within Toronto's subway system, with plans to distribute them to 50,000 commuters weekly. The intention was to reach highrise residents who may not have access to the printed promotions where they live and work, said Flyergo president Bill McDonald.

"There continues to be a strong interest in print when it comes to flyers and coupons and other deal-oriented incentives. We know a whole number of websites and apps that exist to meet that need," said McDonald, former president and publisher of Metro English Canada.

"There continues to be a strong interest, though, in print when it comes to flyers and coupons and other deal-oriented incentives. We see that both through the number of marketers that use this tool, and continue to use it in an aggressive fashion, but also just in terms of consumer experience."

He pointed to research conducted by Canadian firm BrandSpark, whose 2015 Canadian Shopper Study found print flyers "remain crucial to influencing the purchase behaviour of Canadians."

The poll of more than 65,000 shoppers found that 91 per cent check grocery store flyers on a weekly or monthly basis. While 62 per cent polled checked digital flyers on a regular basis, the majority still preferred print, the study found.

"You know you want deals but you don't know what they are -- and they're presented in a format that's appealing to the consumer," said McDonald.

Jeff Novak, brand director of RedFlagDeals.com, said online flyers are among the popular sections on the site since they started aggregating them several years ago.

"Anecdotally, we're seeing a rise in people wanting to save money on groceries and doing that price comparison.

"Previously, a lot of talk about price comparison on our site or price matching was ... 'I'm at Best Buy and I want to buy a TV and Wal-Mart has it cheaper.' ... But we're seeing it a lot more now on groceries and on packaged goods."

With the loonie hovering in the low 70-cent US range, Canadian consumers are also more sensitive to shipping charges, duties and taxes incurred from international shopping, Novak noted.

"We're seeing a lot more conversations like that: people trying to find the best way to save even small amounts of money," he said. "It doesn't seem like a lot, but if you can save 50 cents, a dollar here and there and you do it enough times, it can add up."



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