Cash mobs swarm local shops to generate community spending

With local economies across the globe still in the gutter, civic-minded citizens are coming up with creative ways to inject some cash into small retailers. Back in 2009, the 3/50 project started asking Americans to pick three locally owned stores that they wanted to see survive the recession and spend $50 a month at them. Cash Mobs, the latest iteration of this idea, involves well-intentioned shoppers “mobbing” local retailers.

Consumers can nominate a small business in their town for a Cash Mob by contacting the owner. From there, Cash Mob organizers encourage their Facebook, Twitter and other networks to patronize the store en masse at the appointed date and time. Mobsters commit to spending at least $20, “to give the business owner a little bit of economic stimulus,” as the Cash Mob website puts it. Retailers report that the mobs can boost a day’s sales by two or three times, according to the International Business Times. After starting in the U.S., the movement is spreading—last Saturday was International Cash Mob Day, and nearly 200 mobs were reported around the world.

“There is no science to it, and there are also no hard and fast rules,” Cash Mob’s organizer told Reuters. Consumers are increasingly taking an improvised, DIY approach to improving the economy—frustrated by slow progress and losing faith in big institutions—and using the organizing power of social media to bring about community change on their own. Brands can help drive these efforts, as American Express is doing with Small Business Saturday, for example. Indeed, our research found that 79 percent of respondents in a survey we conducted wish a brand or company would make a substantial investment to improve their local community. At a time when CSR and more traditional marketing efforts are meshing, such projects present ways for big brands and corporations to show that they care and are tapped into the needs of the local communities in which the operate.

Photo Credit: Summer Jo Shepherd

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