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Amazon's Whole Foods deal could spell the end for coupons

  • Coupons have been on a steady decline as the economy picks up speed.
  • Amazon's aggressive price-matching strategies could mean lower grocery prices across the board.

Amazon's proposed purchase of Whole Foods Market may impact how many Americans shop, and for die-hard coupon clippers, it may signal the beginning of the end.

Amazon's aggressive price-matching strategies have served the company well, winning loyal fans even among dedicated bargain hunters. However, extreme couponers are a different breed.

For the average American household, grocery costs are the largest expense after housing, transportation and health care, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The typical household spends roughly 7 percent of its budget on groceries and food.

For those on a tight budget, clipping coupons has been a reliable way to shave those grocery costs, which eat up a large share of the monthly expenses.

Granted, penny-pinching food shoppers are not likely to do the bulk of their buying at Whole Foods, which hasn't been able to shake the nickname "Whole Paycheck," because of its pricey organic goods.

However, "if Whole Foods comes to resemble its new parent company, the high-end grocery store might do something previously unthinkable: lower prices a lot," said Benjamin Glaser, features editor at DealNews, a comparison shopping website. That, in turn, could put pressure on other grocery retailers to do the same.

It's also likely to boost the grocery home-delivery game substantially, which will make it easier for shoppers to compare products and prices across the board.

"Price matching and guaranteed good prices will likely be the way Amazon takes Whole Foods' promotions forward, rather than relying on traditional grocery industry tactics like weekly promotions." -Joe Ewaskiw, spokesman,  UltimateCoupons.com

"With better price comparison, you are going to receive more value out of the purchase rather than pushing your cart through the store and wondering if you got a good price," Brent Shelton, an online shopping expert at price comparison website FatWallet.com, told CNBC.

"We think price matching and guaranteed good prices will likely be the way Amazon takes Whole Foods' promotions forward, rather than relying on traditional grocery industry tactics like weekly promotions, print circulars and manufacturer coupons," added Joe Ewaskiw, a spokesman for coupon sharing website UltimateCoupons.com.

Couponing has already been on a steady decline as the economy improved following the Great Recession. Overall coupon redemption fell more than 4 percent in 2016 from 2015, while the average face value for coupons as well as the total volume of offers were lower in 2016, according to Inmar, a leading coupon processor.

Last year was also the first time ever that digital coupons surpassed traditional paper coupons in popularity, Inmar reported.

Chrome add-ons like Gumdrop, Honey and Piggy, which find and apply coupons automatically at checkout, are also gaining steam, Glaser said. Even without poring over the weekly paper, "hopefully, consumers will stay one step ahead," he said.