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Groupon Tests Out a Staples Competitor, Groupon Supplies

A new sell to business owners.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky has boldly proclaimed that he wants Groupon to eventually be the digital storefront where people start any online shopping trip. Now it seems Groupon may aspire to serve the same role for business owners.

The deals company sent out an email this week to some of its merchants alerting them to a new business category of products called Groupon Supplies.

Among the products being sold are packs of Sharpie markers and Post-It notes as well as boxes of printer paper, but right now the overall selection is modest. Groupon would have a long way to go before being competitive to giant supplies players such as Staples.

Asked for comment, Groupon spokesman Nick Halliwell said in a statement, “Groupon has worked with hundreds of thousands of merchants, and we’re excited to help them save money on the things they need to run their business.”

The Groupon Supplies news comes as Groupon stock is getting pummeled today, down nearly 19 percent after the company reported solid fourth-quarter earnings but a disappointing earnings forecast.

On Friday morning, several equity research groups either downgraded Groupon or cut their price targets for the stock. RBC Capital Markets did both, saying that Groupon’s forecast of essentially flat EBITDA in 2014 came in well below estimates of 30 percent growth. Analyst Mark Mahaney also called Lefkofsky’s goal of having Groupon become the go-to destination for all mobile commerce “excessively ambitious.”

“The challenge is that the Goods and Travel markets that GRPN wants to succeed in are extremely competitive with very well-entrenched competitors,” he wrote, referring to Amazon, eBay, Priceline and Expedia. “We may be overly pessimistic on the company’s ability to succeed in this transition — but we also believe that even if it does succeed, the required duration of this transition makes buying GRPN shares now a risky deal.”

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