Cash mobs make positive impact in Blacksburg
Whatever Happened To?: Community journalist Mike Shaw shares this update on the Blacksburg Cash Mobs, launched earlier this year by Downtown Blacksburg Inc. Read Mike’s first story on the shopping sprees here.
BLACKSBURG — One of the country’s latest trends caught fire in early 2012 as hundreds of thousands of customers participated in “cash mobs” supporting local businesses across the United States.
Cash mobs are designed to encourage groups of people to go into small, local businesses and spend their money to give the business owner a little bit of economic stimulus.
In March, Downtown Blacksburg Inc. director Laureen Blakemore announced the first official cash mob in downtown Blacksburg. About 30 people attended the cash mob at the former Homebody store on North Main Street.
For participants, there are only three rules to participate in a cash mob — they must spend at least $20, meet three people they didn’t know before and simply, have fun.
Since Blacksburg’s first cash mob, there have been 10 more at other businesses, including Mish Mish, High Peak Sportswear and Heirloom Originals.
When cash mob participants are done shopping at the business being “mobbed,” the group then heads to a local restaurant for celebratory drinks and food.
In September, Downtown Blacksburg Inc. partnered with local nonprofit organization Micah’s Backpack, adding another element to the cash mob. Another benefitted Harding Avenue Elementary.
But how have these cash mob events impacted local, Blacksburg businesses?
Gourmet Pantry Owner Roya Gharavi had her business “mobbed” in September and said a lot of people came into her store and most of those people shopped, giving her a pretty good business day.
“It’s a great way to bring locals out to patronize and get to know that business,” Gharavi said. “I saw faces I haven’t seen before, and I think the cash mob concept is a good idea.”
Nancy Willoughby, owner of Fringe Benefit, agreed with Ghavari. She said her business also saw new faces when the store was “mobbed” in April.
“It created a little excitement and a buzz, which made people stop and look when a bunch of people came into the store,” Willoughby said. “And I think that’s a good, positive thing for any business.”
Matrix Gallery owner Lana Juarez said this month’s cash mob did more for her business than bring in extra sales. It helped townspeople get back into the habit of shopping in town, she said.
“So many people downtown think everything is geared to the students, and a lot of those people get out of the habit of their own town,” Juarez said. “This way, you don’t know where you are going and you’re guaranteed to go into some place, look around and find something you didn’t know was there.”
Mad Dog owner Dorothy Egger said the cash mob is a great idea, but believes it can be improved upon.
“They need to make it a weekly thing,” Egger said.
Egger said she believes it’s hard to advertise and get a person excited for something that’s just one time each month. She believes it’s a good concept, but will take more time to catch on.
Blakemore is already thinking about how to improve Blacksburg’s cash mobs using mobile technology. The next cash mob is scheduled for March due to unpredictable weather during January and February.
“I have had a long discussion with Kim Muhota, CEO of the Plurro Cash Mob app for iPhones,” Blakemore said. “We are discussing ways in which we can work together to help cross-promote and market our downtown cash mobs.”
Blakemore said the cash mob will continue to partner with other local nonprofit groups.
As the cash mob takes a break until March, Blakemore said she is interested in hearing ideas from community members about other ways to partner with the cash mob.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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