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Groupon invigorates park use

Sat., June 16, 2012, midnight

Oft-used bargain pays off for budget

Popular deal promoter Groupon last year sold thousands of tickets for Spokane’s Riverfront Park.

The deals, marketed through direct email coupons, were so successful the Spokane Parks Department just approved a new round of Groupon park promotions.

Starting first with winter passes sold in December 2010, then with six promotions for Riverfront Park, the sales netted the parks department $86,000.

In all those coupon deals, Groupon took less than half the price of tickets sold. For instance, when Groupon promoted a two-for-one IMAX ticket deal last July, 1,200 people bought those $8 offers. The parks department got 70 percent of the revenue, Groupon got 30 percent. In other deals, the split was 60-40 in the city’s favor, according to Debby Dodson, assistant manager of Riverfront Park.

Park Board President Randy Cameron said the board had no reservations approving this summer’s Groupon promotion. “We feel it’s a solid program, and it’s worth continuing,” he said.

Terms of this summer’s Groupon deals haven’t been released. The contract with Groupon requires that the city not sign similar deals with other coupon providers.

The July 2011 Riverfront Park Summer Pass deal was easily the most successful of all the park-related deals Groupon promoted.

It generated 3,257 purchases at $16 each. That price provided two day passes, normally costing $16.95 each.

The second-most popular park deal with Groupon was a January 2012 Ice Palace promotion; it sold 1,609 tickets at $8 each, according to park records.

Groupon, which went public last year, has been criticized by some U.S. retailers and merchants for not generating ongoing results. Many critics say specials promoted by Groupon sometimes cost retailers, such as restaurants, more than what the deals generate.

But Dodson and Craig Butz, the manager of Riverfront Park, see the Groupon deals as great ways to bring more traffic to the park’s attractions.

Unlike restaurants, Riverfront Park has plenty of space. “It’s not like we’re selling out our rides and attractions every day,” Dodson noted. Groupon generates more revenue by bringing people into the park who might not be motivated except through the offers, he said.

The other payoff from the added Riverfront Park traffic is secondary sales; people buy concessions, popcorn or soft drinks once there, Dodson said.

Apart from a small amount spent on administration of the deal, the revenue from Groupon sales goes directly into the Parks Department operating budget, Dodson said.

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