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A new kind of mob

In an age of big box stores, it can be difficult for local businesses to survive, let alone thrive. As a grassroots response to this struggle, some communities have married the idea of a flash mob (a group of people spontaneously meeting and performing) with efforts to stimulate their local economies. The offspring of this union? “Cash Mob.”

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By Katie Stobbart (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 13, 2013

In an age of big box stores, it can be difficult for local businesses to survive, let alone thrive. As a grassroots response to this struggle, some communities have married the idea of a flash mob (a group of people spontaneously meeting and performing) with efforts to stimulate their local economies. The offspring of this union? “Cash Mob.”

The first Cash Mob in Mission took place in January of this year, when about 40 people gathered at the Olde Raverty Mall on First Avenue, each with $20 in hand. The mob walked the short distance to Murdoch’s Booke Shoppe to spend the cash they had brought.

This is the essential idea of Cash Mobs: they shine a spotlight on local businesses and create opportunities for members of the community to meet and socialize – as well as purchase some cool stuff for under $20.

There are some basic guidelines: the business chosen should offer products for both men and women, and it should contribute to the community in some way – either struggling in competition with big box stores, or be family-owned. Business owners are generally contacted before arranging the event, so they can prepare for high customer traffic, and help select a date that works well for their schedule.

Chilliwack also has had Cash Mob events since June, when 70 people shopped en masse at two local downtown businesses: the Bookman and Sticky’s Candy. Another event organized in the fall had a turnout of over 90 people.

“We look at it as more of a community-building thing,” organizer Scott McVetty told the Chilliwack Times in September. “It’s a good way to get out and meet your neighbour.”

In both cities, mobbers meet for coffee after shopping to compare purchases and chat.

Each city’s Cash Mob also has its own Facebook page; social media is an integral tool for spreading the word about events. Chilliwack’s page also appears to be a venue for other grassroots initiatives to seek support: there are informational posts about the impending chlorination of Chilliwack’s water and promotional updates for local fundraisers as well as pictures from past events.

“We each do a little. We all do a lot,” is the motto for Chilliwack’s Cash Mob group.

This positive, community-minded mob tries to serve as an example of how every person can contribute to a strong local economy – $20 doesn’t seem like very much, but a large group of people spending $20 each has a lot more weight to it, especially if those shoppers may not have otherwise visited a local business. And if they like what they bought, people will probably come back to shop at that business again; the Cash Mob puts a business back in the community grapevine, and there is a lot to be said for word-of-mouth advertising.

Mission’s next Cash Mob event is March 23. To attend, check out the details on Facebook at Cash Mob Mission BC.

There is also some helpful information for starting a Cash Mob at their website.

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