Groupon broadens offerings with Freebies category of coupons

CHICAGO — Groupon is giving away stuff now.

The Chicago-based company, which is trying to reshape itself into a sprawling e-commerce marketplace, has started offering national brand promotion codes and coupons that do not require an upfront purchase. Groupon calls the category "Freebies" and said more than 5,500 brands, including Best Buy, Nordstrom and Sephora, are participating. Freebies is available just in the U.S. for now, though the company expects to roll out the category internationally next year.

The well-known and oft-copied Groupon model has been to sell a certain number of products or services at a discount — a subscriber might pay $25 upfront for a $50 voucher to take a pottery class at a local studio, for example. With Freebies, customers can browse a grid of deals and click through to get a coupon code or be taken directly to the online sale, no purchase required. Among the current offers are 15% off regular-price orders at Toys R Us and $25 off orders of $70 or more at Reebok.

Getting into this category puts Groupon in competition with other online couponing sites such as A Groupon spokeswoman said the company earns commissions on Freebies, typically when offers are redeemed, that are "directionally consistent within the industry." Participating brands are not required to run a traditional Groupon deal.

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