How Cash Mobs Can Teach People to Shop Local

by Joanne Steele on July 12, 2012


They are called Cash Mobs.Beemer Cash Mob logo

Wikipedia says that a cash mob is “a group of people who assemble at a local business and all buy items from that business. The purpose of these mobs is to support both the local businesses and the overall community.”

If you look at the map on the Cash Mob website, you’ll see that they’re cropping up everywhere, and for good reason. They bring together two of the things people love most – shopping and supporting something they believe in.

Shop local is the latest buzz phrase.

In small community, shopping local makes the difference between having a real town or having a bedroom community feeding the closest big box store.

But what can a small town do to help locals and visitors take that all important first step toward shopping local? They can start having cash mobs.

Cherster's Lounge, NebraskaIn Cuming County Nebraska that is exactly what Economic Development Director, Gary Clark and his staff did.

During the summer months, Gary and his crew organize one cash mob a month in each of the four communities in Cuming County.

Locals come out to support these mobs, and they’re so much fun, people come from surrounding communities as well.

Gary reports that many of the people at their latest mob to Chester’s Lounge in Beemer had never been to Chester’s before. Sales the next day were up, showing that shopping local at Chester’s is likely to stick!

What are the benefits of Cash Mobs?

For the mobbed business:

  • New customers who may become regular customers
  • An influx of cash
  • Being part of a fun event

For the cash mobbers:

  • Taking part in a fun event
  • Making new friends
  • Discovering a local business that they might not have known about

Cash Mobs are easy to organize

1. The organizer must first identify a local business or farmer’s market to mob. In keeping with the spirit of mobbing, this should be a locally owned and operated business.

2. Contact the business and set a date and time for the cash mob. The business owner must be part of this so he or she can be sure to have extra help. All this info is kept secret – it’s part of the fun.

3. If possible identify a coffee shop or restaurant close by where mobbers can go to socialize after the mob. Be sure to alert the restaurant as well.

4. Set a target price. Everyone should come expecting to spend $10 to $20. Many will spend more, but this is the target amount. The store owner should know what that target is, so they can have plenty of items in that price range available.

5. Keep your location a secret. Pick a meeting place close by. You can announce the targeted store a few hours before to immediately at the meeting place. The secret is part of the fun. For farmer’s market mobs, it’s suggested that you give mobbers a longer “heads up” so they don’t grocery shop before going to the market. You decide how to handle this. The goal is making it a fun event, and according to cash mob experts, the secret is part of the fun.

4. Publicize your cash mob. Social media is used extensively in major metropolitan areas, but may not be effective in rural areas. You decide how best to get the word out in your community. Use the local newspaper. Poster. Use word of mouth. Get people to announce the date, time and meeting place at club meetings and community events.

Don’t discount the importance of social media. In Cuming County, they post a video with directions on YouTube and on their Facebook page!  This is a county of under 10,000 people. Rural folks are more tech savvy than you might think!

5. Meet your mobbers the day and time of the event to tell them where to go, and to encourage them to show up at the restaurant afterward to share their purchases and meet other mobbers.

6. Consider having a drawing. In Cuming County, people sign the backs of their receipts and toss them into a basket for a chance to win a prize. In Beemer, Nebraska, the prize was $40 in Beemer Bucks to spend locally.

Is it worth all the effort? Gary Clark says, “Yes!” He received a thank you note from the business owner after their last mob saying that he had done $400 in business in 15 minutes!

Have any of you organized a cash mob? Tell us about your experience.

Thanks to Gary Clark for the photos of Cuming County cash mobs. If you live close to Cuming County, Nebraska, check their Cuming County Facebook page for the location of the next mob.

 Here are several past posts you might also be interested in:

Make Local Farmers Markets a Rural Tourism Attraction

Shop Local Campaigns Work Says New Survey

How the Local First Trend Can Help Small Town Tourism Businesses Attract Urban Visitors



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