Can Cash Mobs Work for You?
By now you’ve either seen a “flash mob” happen right before your eyes (such as at the High Point and Dallas Markets) or you’ve watched one on YouTube or on your local evening news. Cash mobs demonstrate that same type of unbridled enthusiasm as a flash mob, but the purpose is to stimulate buying activity at a particular store or strip mall.
According to the American Independent Business Alliance, cash mobs are “grassroots events with people agreeing to patronize a specific local independent business at an appointed day and time to make a positive impact on the business, have a great time, and help spread public awareness about great local businesses.”
Most cash mobs ask participants to spend a minimum sum (often $20), while others do not specify an amount and just urge people to visit the businesses and spend what they wish. Just like those dancing/singing flash mobs, the key to such an event is to have fun and generate interest from surrounding passersby.
Cash mobs can be coordinated by a single volunteer or by community groups such as local members of the Independent Business Alliance. Jeanne Budnick, owner of Pepin Lumber and President of the Blackstone Valley IBA in Rhode Island notes, “The mobs have been great for raising awareness among residents of why you should look to buy local first.” She says many of the participants bought gift certificates if they didn’t need something from the business themselves — and sometimes those gift certificates were then donated to local charities.
A blog called Cash Mobs (www.cash-mobs.com) also provides information on what cash mobs are, how they work, and how to start one up in your community. The blog also has a listing by city and state of successful cash mob groups (nearly every state is represented with multiple cash mob groups in major cities).
Media sources such as The Huffington Post, the Today Show, and The Wall Street Journal have all covered the phenomenon. An article about cash mobs published in USA Today reported that one small business owner in Roanoke, Va., was visited by more than 100 cash mob participants one weeknight. As a result, his shop experienced 54 sales in less than one hour.
Another Web site www.cashmobs.com offers step-by-step assistance to help potential cash mobbers to promote their event by providing a template for the cash mob organizers to fill out. The cashmobs.com Web site points out that the cash mob concept is not merely about economic stimulus; it is also about generating social interaction. During a cash mob, members of the community meet up and either get re-acquainted or find themselves making new friends in their local area through this group activity.