Daily deals sites serve very-last-minute shoppers

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 24, 2013 - 8:23 PM

Think you’re out of luck for a last minute gift on Christmas? Try LivingSocial, Crowdcut or other daily deal sites.

Nothing against the nearest SuperAmerica, but there is a more creative option for those in need of a last minute gift.

Daily deal sites serve up a treasure trove of clever, bargain-priced gifts, even on Christmas Day.

Procrastinators can go to such sites as Groupon, LivingSocial, Crowdcut, Star Tribune Steals, KGBdeals and DealChicken to buy gift items as diverse as a murder mystery dinner experience, an overnight stay on a Wisconsin B & B train, auto detailing, facials, couples massages, spa packages, snowshoeing tours and oil changes.

Giftors purchase the item online from the daily deal site as a gift and then choose whether the recipient will receive the gift in an e-mail or as a printed voucher in a gift enclosure.

“We saw a lot of last-minute food and spa deals purchased on Dec. 23rd and 24th,” said Kyle Hale, vice-president of Crowdcut.com, which is based in Minneapolis.

This year, some of the sites have added a mobile app that makes last-second gifts from a smartphone an option. More than half of Groupon’s transactions on Black Friday were conducted via its mobile app.

“It’s an easy, on-the-go experience that allows you to send a gift via e-mail within seconds of realizing that you forgot to buy something for someone,” said Bill Roberts, director of communications at Groupon.

Kathryn Campbell of Minneapolis buys gifts frequently on the daily deal sites. “Whether it’s a wine tasting, a day of horseback riding or fencing classes, my family appreciates the opportunity to do something in the weeks and months following Christmas,” she said in an e-mail.

Although nearly all of the daily deal sites are fewer than five years old, buying holiday gifts has been especially big this year. LivingSocial had a 57 percent net increase in Black Friday sales and a 69 percent increase on the following Monday, ­making it the biggest shopping day in the company’s history, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Hebda.

Groupon had similar results with sales on those two days, both setting records. “We’re up about 30 percent in the period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday,” Roberts said.

Consumers like discovering a restaurant, tour or ­experience that they or the gift recipient might not have tried at full-price.

Laurie Froberg of Anoka found a deal on Living Social for Stillwater’s Lift Bridge Brewery that included a growler, flight of four beers, a T-shirt and tour of the ­brewery.

“It’s the first time I’ve bought a daily deal as a Christmas gift, but the reviews were good and the price was right,” she said.

Campbell said that the ­people she shops for on the daily deal sites appreciate getting experiences rather than stuff. “I can give them a higher quality experience for less money,” she said.

The daily deal sites have gradually targeted consumer preferences for services and entertainment, in addition to such common offers as restaurant deals, electronics, gadgets and toys.

Crowdcut, which has 500,000 subscribers in Minnesota, sold more than 1,000 closeout loom band bracelet kits for kids before Christmas, but its most popular sellers have been remote auto starters and newspaper subscriptions.

Sites have also seen high demand for spa services, massages, Mani-Pedi’s as well as experiential packages including tours, fitness classes and vacation getaways.

“People are buying an escape or checking off an item on a bucket list for a trip of a lifetime with friends or ­family,” said Hebda.

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