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More coupon secrets: big stores, bigger discounts

In many areas, shoppers have several grocery stores to choose from. The same area may have smaller grocery markets, discount grocers that offer "everyday low prices" and large-scale, major-chain supermarkets. Many people tend to consider large supermarkets to be more expensive than their low-price, themed counterparts. This is a reputation that the large supermarkets typically don't deserve, as they can be some of the best places to save big.

Consider this point: Grocery stores that offer "everyday low prices" definitely have prices that are not too high. But prices here are also usually not too low, either. These stores offer the same prices on items week to week, with few to no sales. By contrast, the larger supermarkets offer "high/low" prices. On any given day, it's true about half the items' prices will be higher at the supermarket than at an "everyday low price" store. But prices on the other half of the items will be lower. Those are the items that Super-Couponers watch for price drops on. When the prices take a big dip, that's when we can move in with our coupons and bring the price down even more.

This is an advantage supermarkets can have over other stores. During a typical 12-week sales cycle at a supermarket, the price of any particular item will fluctuate from high to low. But just once during that time does the price hit its lowest low - we call this the "12-week-low." This is the lowest price that item will appear at during the price cycle.

Why is it a good idea to watch for these 12-week-lows? That 12-week-low price is typically 50 percent lower than the regular shelf price. Any time we're able to buy something for half the original price, even without a coupon, it's time to buy it! Of course, we also want to use coupons at that point to bring the price down even more. With coupons we can often save 70 percent or more off the original price.

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