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Quick Hits: Surfing For Bargains

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

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You no longer have to be like an old lady, pruning for coupons in newspapers and circulars - online coupon sites save you paper cuts and time. Business Week reports that the number of page views on websites featuring money-off coupons for consumer products reached 281 million in March, an increase of 38% from a year earlier. That number dwarfs the Internet as a whole, which generated page view growth of just 5% for the same period.

Coupons.com, a decade-old site offering coupons across a range of products, surged in the first three months of 2008, growing 35% more than in the prior quarter. Similarly, RetailMeNot.com says its growth for February, which typically slows after the holiday shopping season, has returned to December levels.

A rapid increase in food and fuel prices are two factors prompting consumers to hunt for bargains.

Online coupons can be accessed several ways. On Coupons.com, retailers create certificates with unique serial numbers that can be printed at home and redeemed in stores. Coupons also come in the form of promotional codes for discounted online purchases. RetailMeNot lets users post and share such digital coupons.

Sellers looking to stay competitive in a tough economic environment are exploiting another technology: Mobile phones. An estimated 3 billion wireless coupons will be sent to cell phone users by 2011, resulting in $7 billion of redeemed discounts.

Some popular retailers who offer coupons are: Target (TGT), American Eagle (AEO), Guess (GES), Macy's (M) and Staples (SPLS).

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