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The history of coupons starts with Coca-Cola and Grape Nuts

Posted Apr 01 2009 2:19pm
[Fort Collins, CO] – L ong before consumers turned to the Internet in increasing numbers to make their purchases online and years before FreeShipping.org debuted as a one-stop destination for retailers to offer free shipping deals to shoppers, entrepreneurs who created two recognizable products introduced Americans to the concept of coupons.

In 1894, druggist Asa Candler bought the formula for Coca-Cola. To spread the word and stimulate sales, the Atlanta businessman used handwritten tickets for a free glass of Coca-Cola to help market his new soft drink. Within a decade Coca-Cola was available in every state, and in two decades one of every nine Americans had received a free Coca-Cola soft drink.

A year later, grocer C.W. Post embraced the concept. His coupon offered consumers a one cent discount on his new breakfast cereal, Grape Nuts.

Like today, when the United States is mired in one of the worst recessions in its history, the Great Depression of the 1930s was a period when coupon clipping was prevalent and necessary. By the 1940s, when supermarket chains started to slowly but surely replace small corner markets, those chains used coupons to attract customers.

Gradually, coupons became commonplace in the United States. In 1957, The Nielson Coupon Clearing House was established devoted entirely to coupon redemption. Half of all American households were clipping coupons by 1965.

The Internet age provided a new forum for discounts. By the mid 1990s, retailers added printable coupons that could be downloaded. Then coupon codes online debuted. Most of these online coupons provided for a percentage discount or free shipping on orders.

Today, free shipping is considered a requirement from consumers, and not just a perk. Without free shipping, consumers are less likely to complete their online order since they are repelled by the shipping costs at checkout. Launched in December 2007, FreeShipping.org is a one-stop destination for consumers to find online retailers that offer free shipping deals. The site allows visitors to search by brand or category.

Many online shoppers can identify with the experience of finding a great deal and then discovering an expensive shipping charge during checkout,” said Luke Knowles, who founded FreeShipping.org with his wife, Maisie. “ Shopping online is more appealing when you know that you won't have to pay for shipping.”

FreeShipping.org recently introduced My Favorite Coupons, a feature that allows visitors to create their own page and select coupons from specific merchants. For example, if you want to see coupons from just your favorite stores, those coupons will be displayed on your page. In addition, consumers can sign up to have a daily or weekly e-mail sent with new coupons form their favorite stores.

Despite the recession, FreeShipping.org continues to grow. There are now more than 1,300 retailers who offer their free shipping deals and coupons on the site.

Shoppers are searching for retailers that offer free shipping, and we are a user-friendly site that gives shoppers access to deals offered by lots of big and small retailers,” Knowles said. “ Our coupons are accurate and up-to-date, and our site is easy for visitors to navigate.”

The recession has reshaped the priorities of many retailers, Knowles believes. They are searching for effective ways to reach consumers, and they recognize that free shipping is now considered a requirement and not a perk.

Everyone wants to save money, especially in this economy,” Knowles said. “ Every day, we get e-mails from merchants who offer free shipping and want to be on our site. Big and small merchants alike are reaching out to us to promote free shipping offers.”

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FreeShipping.org is the Internet's premiere destination for online shoppers to find free shipping deals offered by more than 1,300 online retailers, including Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, Target, Bloomingdale's, Kohl's, Sears, Best Buy, Old Navy, Nordstrom and Macy's. For more information, visit
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