A group of people is using social media to drive business to downtown Aberdeen, help retailers, spread the shop local message and have fun doing it.
The effort is modeled on “flash mobs” a practice that uses social media to spread the word for people to show up at a certain place at a certain time for a not-so-spontaneous event — say to burst into a Broadway show tune in the middle of the mall.
In this case the flash mob is a “cash mob” and it works like this: An organizer spreads the word on social media for folks to show up at a certain location downtown and bring $20 to spend. They don’t know where they’re going until they get to the meeting place and the shoppers descend on the business en masse. Good for the business and fun for the cash mobbers.
The latest effort, organized on Facebook, is set for Saturday at 11 a.m. at the corner of Heron and Broadway. The shopping destination will be a secret until the last minute, which is part of the fun, said volunteer organizer Jamie Judkins, who first heard of cash mobs from Callie White, who works for Greater Grays Harbor Inc.
The first one, at Frames ‘n’ Things on East Wishkah St., was then organized by Lora Malakoff, publisher of Sunset Times about a year ago. Later efforts stalled when she had surgery and Judkins, who also is a volunteer member of the Aberdeen Planning Commission, picked up the baton and designed the Facebook page as it is now: “Aberdeen, WA - Cash Mob.”
“I am so glad Jamie and the gang carried the torch because it has been a great boost for the local merchants. The stores just love it as not only does it boost their bottom line, but it puts an emphasis on the ‘Shop the Harbor First’ mentality,” wrote Malakoff in an email.
Judkins learned not to reveal the identity of the store with the first one she organized, back in February, for Rosevear’s Music Center. Some 12 people showed up, but potential participants shied away because they don’t play an instrument, she said. They could have browsed and bought plenty: CDs of local artists, classes, gift certificates, or say, nose flutes, which she purchased for her two daughters who are 10 and 14 years of age.
Business owners get a heads up from organizers beforehand so they can be ready. “It was great. It turned out really well,” said Chloe Pinckney, one of Rosevear’s owners. “Absolutely” she would to it again. “It’s fun to see new traffic come through the store you might not normally see.”
Last month’s participant, Wiitamaki Jewelers, offered a discount: $15 for scarves and 15 percent off purses, which they also sell at the store, said Judkins. And the store handed out cookies and cupcakes.
“It was a lot of fun, we had quite a few people,” said Mike Giron, one of Wiitamaki’s owners. He doesn’t remember the total business done, but added, “Anytime anyone wants to come spend money at the shop is a fantastic thing.” Social media is “another way to promote business and get people into it. I’d do it again.” He is also enthused about First Friday, another pro-Harbor shopping effort on the internet in which many businesses will stay open later, until 8 p.m.
“All the money goes right back into the community, creating jobs, supporting jobs and supporting the community,” says Judkins, who works fulltime as grant program coordinator for the Shoalwater Bay Indian tribe in Tokeland.
Sometimes Judkins has to explain the concept to the prospective mob outlet, which she calls a “mob victim” in jest. Once she left a message and the owners thought she was seeking a donation. She isn’t, it is strictly voluntary. There are several ways to participate, Judkins said.
Go to the Facebook page and like it, request to be on the mailing list and become a mobber. If you are a merchant or restaurant, you can volunteer to be a mob host or offer discounts on other days which can be posted on the page. And if you are a third party interested in helping the “mob victim” or business, offer them perks such as discounted supplies or advertising, she suggested.
Judkins is happy to train a mob organizer if people in other towns are interested. On Thursday, on the latest mob’s invitation page, Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines offered to shop on behalf of Tara Mareth, who can’t be there Saturday. “Absolutely, give me a few ideas of what you’d like me to pick-up!!!” the mayor wrote.
Another cash mob is planned for January, Judkins said. They are often held during the first of the month on Saturdays or in the evening when stores may stay open for the mob.
“Where else can you have such a good time, do a good deed and go shopping for a tiny investment of just $20? The entire activity is a ton of fun for the participants and I hope more people join the mob and support the merchants of Grays Harbor,” said Malakoff.
Erin Hart, 360-537-3932, email@example.com. Twitter: @DW_Erin