Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Coupon book's cloudy fate may boost city firm

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With the world's biggest provider of fundraising coupon books having filed for bankruptcy and its future in the Canadian market very much in doubt, Ian Grosney is hoping to fill the void for school, sports and church groups.

The president of Show & Save, a Winnipeg-based coupon-book company, is working the phones and sending out emails to contact local groups that usually finance a good portion of their activities by selling the Entertainment Book.

"There are a number of non-profit groups, especially schools, that were expecting to be raising money this fall. Many of them are left in a lurch and most of them didn't know the Entertainment Book went out of business," he said.

Entertainment Promotions closed its doors abruptly in March and laid off nearly 700 employees, including 225 at its Troy, Mich., head office. It was acquired by HSP-EPI Acquisitions effective last week. While it has resumed operations and hired back some of its employees south of the border, whatever plans it might have in Canada remain in flux.

A spokesman for the company said it is looking at all markets but it doesn't have anything specific planned for Winnipeg.

"They just finished the acquisition," Bill Daddi said. "There are digital products and there will continue to be some books."

But one of the company's former staffers in Winnipeg said Canada isn't in the plans.

Wayne Antonishin, former merchant account manager with Entertainment Promotions in Winnipeg, said as far as he knows, the Entertainment Book is done in Canada.

"They just closed the doors that day (March 12) and we no longer existed. There's nothing left to talk about with Winnipeg specifically," he said.

Here's how Show & Save works: Local companies pay a small fee to be included in the book and then schools and other groups sell the book for $20 each and can earn up to $10 per sale (depending on their total sales).

The most recent edition of the Entertainment Book, meanwhile, sold for $30.

Stuart Henrickson, a marketing professor at the I.H. Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba, said coupon books have had some of their market share eaten away by the likes of Groupon in recent years but after an initial surge, these deep online discounts have levelled off.

He said they require retailers to reduce their prices by 50 per cent and then they only receive half of what's left.

"They're taking a 75 per cent hit. The discount with coupon books is between 20 and 35 per cent," he said.

And while Groupon and others certainly have some screaming-hot deals, some will appeal to you but most won't, he said.

"You get a wider variety of deals with the coupon books, such as at grocery stores, gas stations and shoe stores. You can get more of a selection of what you want and it doesn't hurt the retailer as much," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 8, 2013 B7

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