Andrew Mason Gets an Early Present — It’s Not His Job (Although He Got That, Too)

A hot topic of conversation at Groupon’s board meeting yesterday was whether Andrew Mason is the right person to lead the company.

While I have already spelled out a number of reasons why he might be let go, here’s one reason why he should stay: On Black Friday, Groupon said it saw almost twice the purchase rate of its previous busiest day on record.

Call it an early present for Mason, who also learned yesterday that he is keeping his job as CEO — at least, for now.

This year, Groupon is putting an especially heavy emphasis on holiday gifts, after launching physical goods on the site more than a year ago. While coupons for restaurants and spas also sell well this time of year, physical gifts are more traditionally considered presents.

Yesterday, Groupon said its physical products division, Groupon Goods, celebrated its biggest four-day weekend since the program’s inception. Put another way, over the seven days after Thanksgiving in North America, Groupon generated double the gross billings from last year, with essentially all of the growth attributable to Groupon Goods, according to Yipit, a third-party data provider.

Top sellers included customizable photo books, iPhone cases, Topaz earrings and flying toy helicopters, which sold 43,000, 40,000, 42,000 and 11,000 units, respectively.

While an increase in sales is always a good thing, Groupon has received some static about its entrance into selling physical goods, which have thinner margins than local deals. It also means entering an extremely competitive landscape with well-established players, like Walmart and Amazon, although clearly it has demonstrated it can sell thousands of items fairly easily.

At least two promotions helped Groupon see a huge spike in the sale of Goods over the weekend. Yipit said that following Thanksgiving, the homepage redirected visitors to (although it’s back to directing people to their local markets). Additionally, Groupon rolled out Grouponicus, the company’s third annual wintertime promotion, which offers customers gift ideas. For the first time this year, it offered a holiday toy catalog and free shipping and returns.

Groupon’s close competitor LivingSocial, which is facing its own turmoil, also saw a lift this year during the Thanksgiving week, although not as much since it’s still in the early days of building out its products division. In North America, for the week following Thanksgiving, Yipit said LivingSocial revenues jumped 30 percent. In particular, Yipit said sales from products were up roughly 5 percent, with a bump over the past few days coming from a partnership with (Separately, Fab said today it averaged $933,500 in daily sales for a week straight).

Still, one thing on Mason’s wish list that he has not received is a higher stock price. While shares were trading higher recently on news that he might be replaced, shares are now down 8.8 percent, or 40 cents, to trade at $4.14 a share.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google