Business, Economics and Jobs

'Cash mobs' give small businesses a boost


A salesperson at the Design Box, a home boutique in Miami, calculates a sale on Sept. 14, 2010.


Joe Raedle

Independent, locally owned businesses have a new ally in their struggle to stay afloat in this tepid economy: “Cash mobs,” community-minded shoppers who turn up at a local store en masse and spend at least $10 to $20 to give its bottom line a boost.

Like flash mobs, which are groups that seemingly spontaneously appear in public to dance, sing or protest, cash mobs use Twitter and Facebook to organize where and when they will show up, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Sometimes the organizers give store owners a heads-up; other times, it’s a surprise.

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A crowded store is usually appreciated. In a recent report from the National Small Business Association, nearly 40 percent of small-business owners said reduced customer spending is one of the three most significant challenges they face, USA Today reported.

Small businesses in about 140 US cities, plus Sweden, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, have been hit by cash mobs since last fall, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Some cash mobs have pulled in hundreds of shoppers, such as a recent mob that materialized to stock up on sweets from an Atlanta candymaker who had been robbed at gunpoint, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Appalachia Press, a letterpress and silk-screening shop in Roanoke, Va., got cash-mobbed on Mar. 14. More than 100 shoppers showed up and bought stationery, books and prints. "We did the equivalent of a Christmas shopping day in 45 minutes," owner John Reburn told USA Today.

Lisa Zahn, a former seminary student and stay-at-home mother in St. Cloud, Minn., organized Minnesota's first cash mob last November, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Zahn and fellow shoppers showed up at Marishka’s, a St. Cloud boutique.

"I liked that it was so simple," Zahn told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It was low budget, and it gives a nice little bump in business for a small store. A lot of us wouldn't have been there otherwise.”

“It can have a big impact on both small businesses and people's consciousness around where and how they spend their money,” Andrew Samtoy, an attorney who organized a cash mob in Cleveland in November, told the Hartford Courant. “One day's big sales won't save a failing business. The real benefit comes when customers return on a regular basis."

More than 170 cash mobs are scheduled to pop up on Mar. 24, which has been designated National Cash Mob Day, the Hartford Courant reported.

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