Make us your home page

Tampa Bay area businesses cash in on Groupon, other deal sites

Given the state of the Tampa Bay economy, you might think that a business like Da Vinci Teeth Whitening would struggle to attract customers.

Think again.

Thanks to the Groupon and LivingSocial daily-deal websites, the Tampa business has sold more than 1,200 laser teeth whitening treatments. Most went to first-time buyers — a significant number of whom referred friends and family, as well.

"Just the other day I was up at one store and a gentleman who had bought a Groupon finished his service, and while he was still in the chair called his daughter to get her down there, and she did it right after he did it," said owner Gerry La Ninfa.

Daily-deal sites pair with merchants to sell online coupons for limited-time deep discounts. For example, Da Vinci Teeth Whitening offered its service for $99, a 67 percent discount from the regular price of $299. A week's worth of deals might include a four-hour boating class, a month's worth of boot camp classes at a gym, pizza or 20 units of Botox.

The market for these deals is growing in Tampa Bay. Since the beginning of the year, the number of daily deals offered in Tampa has increased 263 percent, according to, a daily-deal site aggregator. That's a faster growth rate than the markets in Miami (62 percent), Orlando (174 percent) and Charlotte (92 percent). The total number of deals offered here is second only to Miami in Florida.

The daily-deal coupon business overall is in flux, according to the New York Times. Last year, Google offered $6 billion for Groupon and was rebuffed. Groupon had plans to go public at a valuation of as much as $30 billion. Now that public offering has been put off amid what the New York Times called "coupon fatigue'' and turmoil in the financial markets. Dozens of Groupon copycats, the Times said, are "closing, reformulating or merging.''

Whatever second thoughts investors are having, daily deals are popular among local consumers and businesses. Eleven websites offered at least one Tampa deal in August.

McGee Auto Service and Tires, which has 10 locations in Hills­borough and Pinellas counties, found the most success with Groupon, said district manager Kevin McGee. The company recently offered an oil change at a 53 percent discount.

"We had tried other sites that were like Groupon, but we only ever sold nine or 10 deals," McGee said. "In our first time with Groupon, we sold 812 deals in Tampa. I'll be honest — I was very surprised at how many sold."

Groupon and LivingSocial give local businesses the ability to reach people by e-mail, said Larry Salkin, who runs the Tampa Water Taxi Co. The downtown-based company recently sold 449 ticket packages for an evening harbor tour at 40 to 50 percent off.

Groupon, the largest daily-deal site in Tampa, sends its e-mails to "tens of thousands" of subscribers every day, said company spokeswomen Julie Mossler.

"Groupon has a customer base that would be impossible or cost-ineffective to buy," Salkin said. "When you stick yourself in a customer's e-mail, it brings you to the front of their mental page."

Offering a product at such a deep discount carries its own set of concerns.

"There are some downsides," Salkin said. Sometimes "you end up eating your own young, which are existing customers who would have paid a higher rate but buy the Groupons, so you ship away your own average price per trip."

Nevertheless, Salkin said he thinks daily-deal sites bring in more customers, some of whom will return and pay full price or refer their friends. La Ninfa, the Da Vinci Teeth Whitening owner, estimates that 10 to 15 percent of customers who come as a result of LivingSocial or Groupon offers end up generating new customers through referrals.

At McGee Tire, the bump in business has been immediate, even though the company performs the discounted oil changes for a loss.

"We're probably losing half our money on those, but in the automotive business, you're always trying to make new customers, and with these guys, you hope they need other services as well," McGee said. "We noticed an additional $11,000 of incremental income from additional services added to the Groupons. And that's with only one-fourth being redeemed."

Tampa Bay area businesses cash in on Groupon, other deal sites 10/04/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 7:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Aramis Ayala defends stance against death penalty: 'I did what I believe was proper'

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Aramis Ayala, the elected Orlando prosecutor who refuses to seek the death penalty, defended her actions Wednesday as she faced a flurry of hostile questions from Florida Supreme Court justices.

    Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala, far right, said she was "very well pleased" with her lawyer's case. "I violated no laws." [STEVE BOUSQUET | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Tampa Chamber of Commerce offers boost to black and Hispanic-owned businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — There's a disconnect in Hillsborough County's minority business community.

    Gaston Meredith of Gaston's Culinary Services listens to LaKendria Robinson, Director of Minority Business Accelerator & Economic Inclusion during an information session at the Robert W. Saunders Library in Tampa on Tuesday.
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Wesley Chapel, Greater Pasco chambers of commerce merge


    LAND O'LAKES — Two chambers of commerce representing more than 850 business members from west Pasco to Wesley Chapel and New Tampa are merging into a single organization.

    Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Hope Allen will lead the combined chambers of commerce announced Wednesday. The yet-to-be-named chamber will represent more than 850 businesses that currenlty are members of the Greater Pasco and Greater Wesley Chapel chambers.
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  4. Sign up for our new daily News at Noon email newsletter


    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.

  5. Bitcoin, ransomware fraudster Anthony Murgio of Tampa sentenced to prison


    Tampa's Anthony Murgio, 33, was sentenced Tuesday to 5-1/2 years in prison for running a bitcoin exchange suspected of laundering money for a group of hackers who targeted publishing and financial firms as part of a complex securities fraud.

    Anthony Murgio of Tampa, 33, was sentenced Tuesday to 5 1/2 years in prison for running a Bitcoin exchange suspected of laundering money for a group of hackers who targeted publishing and financial firms as part of a complex securities fraud. [AP photo]