As the cost of living crisis continues to ravage our bank accounts, most people – in the UK and around the world – are looking for ways to minimise their outgoings to coincide with the increasing prices of essentials like groceries and petrol.
One of the most effective ways to cut back on spending, while still being able to occasionally treat yourself, is to utilise retail discount codes.
Discount codes are obviously nothing new, but the recent influx in searches and demand for them certainly is. With this in mind, we have analysed the most popular discount codes and coupons, in order to see those that have been the most popular across stores and websites around the world.
By collating all of this data, we were able to form The Retail Discounts Index.
The most popular retailer discount codes in the UK
First of all, we broke down the most popular discount codes used by UK consumers. All of our data was collected between 1st Sep 2022 – 27th Feb 2023, meaning that we could take into account seasonal changes, holidays and events, and their impact on the results.
The most popular discount code, used a staggering 18,183 times, was for sporting goods giant Sports Direct. It is no secret that New Year’s Resolutions usually include goals focused on health and fitness, so it is unsurprising that people wanted to save some money on new gym clothes, running gear, or sporting equipment.
The much-loved retailer John Lewis was up next, with 9,832 coupon code redemptions. Renowned for selling a huge variety of goods, from homeware and clothes, to toys and gifts, its popularity could highlight how many people flock to this store to stock up on festive treats. Of course, the brand’s annual TV advert and marketing campaign that goes viral each Christmas may also be reflected in searches for John Lewis codes towards the end of last year.
Energy bills increasing and inflation inevitably caused most people to tighten their belts around this usually plentiful time of year, so the huge number of coupon redemptions around the Christmas period makes perfect sense.
Jumping down to the lower end of the list saw Netflix in ninth place – with many no doubt surprised to learn that Netflix coupons even exist. However, as the streaming platform announced in March 2022 that its standard package would be rising from £5.99 to £6.99, viewers were clearly motivated to find a way to binge-watch their favourite shows, without paying the additional fees. With all of this in mind, we discovered Netflix had 1,455 coupon redemptions during this time period.
Airbnb secured a place on the list with 1,294 redemptions, suggesting that people are unwilling to negotiate on their love of travel, but are looking at how they can save money on staycations and holidays to lessen the cost. Interestingly, searches for ‘cheap holidays’ have increased by 225% on Google over the past 90 days alone.
The most popular retailer discount codes in the USA
Our research revealed that American spending trends contrasted greatly with those in the UK, with the most popular coupons being redeemed at the Dollar Tree. With 4,541 redemptions, it is safe to say that the infamous discount store, despite its name, could offer up even more bargains to the most savviest of shoppers.
While it’s only natural to enjoy as much of a discount or bargain as possible, these results seem to indicate that discount hunters in the US could be struggling to buy from stores that pride themselves on already being fairly priced to customers. It also highlights that American shoppers may be looking to save money when purchasing essential items, rather than only attempting to save on luxury ones.
Despite this, there were still certain spending habits from US shoppers that seemed to parallel the UK. For example, Nike found itself in fourth place with 2,849 redemptions, which could also be down to people attempting to stick to New Year’s Resolutions by investing in sports equipment or apparel. Nike also made the list of UK couponing habits, in sixth place.
Wish and IKEA were also on the coupon list for the States, with Wish receiving 2,025 redemptions, and IKEA 1,619. This, once again, highlights how many American citizens are attempting to save money, as both of these stores are considered to offer discounted prices anyway. However, as a recent article indicated that the US technically entered into a recession in the summer of 2022, this is somewhat expected as households gear up for what is set to be a financially turbulent few years.
The most popular retailer discount codes in Australia
Finally, we delved into the most popular coupons in Australia. Unlike in the UK and USA, the economy of Australia remains relatively stable. A recent article revealed that, although things may change in 2023, the country is not in a dire financial situation. In fact, the Australian economy grew by 0.6% in September 2022, which may well have been mirrored in our data findings of consumers’ discounting behaviours.
This economic certainty could be why so many companies selling miscellaneous or more niche products are present on the Australian coupon redemption list, such as Myprotein with 1,171 coupon redemptions, and Foot Locker, with 484.
Boody clothing was also on the list, with 594 coupon redemptions, which could indicate a rising interest in sustainable clothing and preserving the environment. Boody clothing boasts eco-friendly practices, claiming to work hard to use less water and combat deforestation.
This notion could also be supported by transport company DiDi being in second place with 2,024 redemptions. The company website states that the team, like the one at Boody, strives for sustainability where it can – encouraging ride-sharing where possible, in order to conserve energy. Ola transport was also present on the list, with 1,043 coupon redemptions.
While in the UK and many parts of the US, it can be somewhat easier to turn a blind eye to climate change and the impact it has on our planet, countries like Australia are not so lucky. It is no secret that regular forest fires ravage the outback due to temperature increases, which could be playing a part in many Aussie citizens actively choosing to support environmentally-friendly companies.
A retail expert’s insight on why discount codes are booming
After collating all of our data, it is easy to wonder why so many people are reaching for coupon codes for certain non-essential purchases, rather than just limiting their consumer spending altogether.
Thankfully, Nick Drewe, financial expert here at Wethrift, offered his insight into the matter:
“It can be easy to assume that during times of financial uncertainty, people should simply tighten their belts and not spend anything unless they absolutely have to. However, this is a very unrealistic way to think, as different people will have very different ideas about whether an item is essential or not.
“For example, make-up and cosmetics may seem like non-essential purchases for some, but for those who work in the arts, or as performers, they are a career necessity. Painting equipment would not be essential for somebody who worked in an office for a living, but would absolutely be crucial for somebody who made their living as an artist.
“Also, different miscellaneous items that may not be considered indispensable – such as books, gaming equipment, or musical paraphernalia – could be extremely important when assisting someone struggling with their mental health. Essentially, despite the fact we seem to be faced with negative news surrounding the economy on a daily basis, people are always going to try and find a way to maintain the lifestyle they currently have.
“Energy bills are rising, but people are still going to want to catch up on their favourite shows. In fact, a recent article highlighted that on average, people with a Netflix account have watched over 1,130 hours since signing up to the streaming service. It is a talking point between friends, a hobby, and something that can entertain adults and children for hours on end, so it is no wonder people are trying to find new ways around the company’s decision to increase its costs.
“Even supermarkets are seeing a demand for discount codes, despite the fact that trying to make any meaningful cuts to essential grocery products is proving almost impossible at present. The ideal conclusion for people living through an extreme cost-of-living crisis is being able to adapt to the rise of prices, without having to alter their lifestyles dramatically. Coupons provide an answer to this.”
Bargain Brits: Which UK brands have the biggest savings?
Purchasing from almost any online retailer will, inevitably, lead to a flurry of marketing emails flooding your inbox – but which UK brands are the most prolific? After crunching the numbers, we were able to reveal which UK company was guilty of sending the most emails per month.
Up first was travel company Secret Escapes, which was sending, on average, 43 marketing emails per month.
In second place was Clarks with 41 emails per month, then homeware retailed Wayfair with 34. As both of these companies could be considered more expensive than a lot of their competitors, such as TK Maxx (which sent 32 emails per month) it is natural that they would want to try to put themselves at the forefront of people’s inboxes.
At the bottom of the list were Etsy and Sainsbury’s, both with only 15 marketing emails per month. However, as Etsy mainly features small, independent artists, it usually falls onto the sellers themselves to send marketing emails and discount codes.
As well as this, we analysed which brands were offering the biggest savings and sending the most discount emails, and the results made for interesting viewing. First up was fast fashion giant Shein, revealed to be dedicating 100% of its emails to discount codes rather than marketing. This is unsurprising, as Shein has long been hailed the ‘fastest’ fashion brand in the world, adding thousands of new items to its store each day.
Health and beauty brand Boots were revealed to be utilising 86% of their emails to send discount codes, which could possibly be due to the cost of living crisis. As people are having to cut back on more expensive items, such as toiletries and makeup, it is no wonder that big brands are having to offer more incentives to get people through the doors.
H&M (38%) and Pretty Little Thing (52%) are also hugely popular fast fashion brands and with so much stock to shift, churning out discount codes is one of the best ways to attract customers.
Nick Drewe weighed in on why so many companies are spamming our inboxes with marketing emails and discount codes at the moment:
“With so many people having to make cut-backs in the face of the cost of living crisis, lots of brands – especially those selling items that are not deemed essential – are realising that this may mean they get left behind. With this in mind, one of the most effective ways to draw people towards your site is by offering things like free shipping or discount codes, as it allows people to justify spending money that they should probably be spending elsewhere.
“Many companies are feeling the financial burn, with some even being bought out by larger ones altogether, such as stationery retailer Paperchase. It is worth noting that the brands mentioned in the study that are classed as ‘fast fashion’ are offering more discount codes than those that aren’t, as they have such a high quantity of products added to their sites each day.
“Furthermore, it has been noted that more people are gravitating towards online shopping than ever before – with around 80 million more online shoppers in 2023 than in 2022. With this in mind, it makes sense for brands to dedicate a large portion of their outreach to offering potential customers discounts and savings.”
Which US brands have the biggest savings?
After looking into the UK brands offering the biggest saving opportunities, we turned our attention to the US. When it came to marketing emails, fast fashion giant Fashion Nova was at the top of the list with 50 emails per month, tying with Poshmark.
Fashion Nova, similarly to Pretty Little Thing, is a brand renowned for constantly finding ways to draw attention to their high volume of stock, regularly collaborating with celebrities like Cardi B and Blac Chyna. Very different to Fashion Nova, Poshmark is a secondhand eCommerce website that allows people to sell pre-loved items.
A recent article highlighted that younger people, especially Generation Z, are more interested in secondhand clothes than ever before, with many acknowledging the disastrous impact on the environment that fast fashion brands have. With this in mind, it could be worth noting that fast fashion brands are utilising marketing and discount code emails in order to avoid falling out of favour with their younger customers.
When it came to discount codes, Fashion Nova was, once again, in the top spot with 84% of their emails dedicated to them. Old Navy also received a ranking of 84%, possibly due to overhauling their stock weekly, making them very similar to fast fashion giant, Shein. Shein itself was in 9th place with a score of 60%.
In last place was Kroger, with a ranking of 44% when it came to discount code emails. A massive discount food and drinks retailer, the brand makes it easy to sift through codes for supermarkets, as well as offering its own low-price produce. It was revealed in 2022 that America was on the brink of its own cost of living crisis, as the price of food soared to 9.4% higher than it had been in 40 years. Due to this, supermarkets are having to advertise far and wide to remain competitive.
Taking a seed list of the most popular brands in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia, the trends team have analysed our internal consumer data to determine which coupon codes are being redeemed the most, to uncover the top in-demand brands.