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Posts Tagged ‘cash mob’

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
Craig and Bobby Giurleo carried wreaths out of their shop for customers. Millbrook Farm, family run for generations, was badly wounded this year by a construction road closure. Then some caring neighbors organized a
cash mob.

Six years ago I participated in a cash mob to help a longtime family-run five and dime threatened with bankruptcy. (My post on that.) I was only one of many who bought a lot of great stuff that day, and I’m happy to say the shop is still going.

Recently, another group of local well-wishers did something similar for a family-run farm, where summer and fall sales had gone down 90 percent thanks to an unconscionable road closure.

Deanna Pan wrote at The Boston Globe, “To reach Millbrook Farm from Boston, you must go out of your way. Take Route 2 west into historic Concord, past thickets of snow-drenched woods and picturesque Colonials. If you know where you’re going, you’ll find it, after a series of right turns, tucked back on the Cambridge Turnpike before the road abruptly closes to anyone passing through.

“The family-run nursery — which specializes in flowers and hanging plants in the spring, pumpkins and mums in the fall, and Christmas trees and wreaths in the winter — has survived its share of troubles.

“Sal Giurleo, 80, the brusque family patriarch, started the business 31 years ago, following in the footsteps of his father, an Italian immigrant who grew vegetables for First National grocery stores in the 1940s and ’50s. …

“When construction began on the Cambridge Turnpike this spring, sales at Millbrook Farm plummeted. Although part of the turnpike remained open, roadwork made it virtually impassable. Construction vehicles and machinery frequently blocked both lanes. Until recently, the road was dug up and unpaved. …

Shaun Giurleo, 50, Sal’s youngest son, estimates that by midsummer and fall, sales had plunged 90 percent.

“At their lowest point, they saw no more than one customer a day. Sal had to take out two loans, totaling $52,000, to keep the business afloat. They had no choice but to sell their flowers and plants wholesale at a fraction of the price they would normally charge their customers. …

“The Giurleos prepared for a tight Christmas. Sal worried he would have to take out another loan and sink deeper into debt. He was determined to stay open, no matter the cost. In late November, news of the Giurleo family’s plight proliferated across Facebook, Nextdoor, and e-mail as residents of Concord and beyond urged their friends and neighbors to patronize the struggling Millbrook Farm. …

“The Giurleos’ Christmas miracle arrived early, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Millbrook Farm was unusually busy for a weekday, which Shaun thought was odd. But nothing could have prepared the Giurleos for what happened on the Friday after the holiday. From 9 a.m. until sundown, cars parked up and down the turnpike, as many as 20 at time. The crowds were unlike anything they’d ever seen, driving from as far as Natick and Saugus.

“It was the busiest day in Millbrook Farm’s history. Shaun guesses they sold between 350 and 400 Christmas trees, about half their lot. Saturday was even busier. … At least 10 customers paid for two trees when they only took home one. Another customer asked the Giurleos to charge him $500 for a single tree. …

“ ‘We had a million people here. We weren’t ready. We didn’t know,’ Sal said later, chuckling, …

“Millbrook Farm is now replenishing its inventory with help from other garden centers and wholesalers in the region.

“Inside the storefront [in December], an ebullient Shaun worked the cash register. Despite the weather, the nursery was humming with customers, picking up vibrant wreaths that Shaun had carefully decorated with handmade bows and other baubles, and whatever trees were left until Sal’s shipment arrived.

“The Giurleos won’t recoup all of their losses from the past year, but their business will survive until the next season. Thanks to the influx of sales, Sal immediately paid off his debts.” More here.

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Photo: Frankie Steele, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal
Carmichael’s Kids indie bookstore at its opening. Writer Shea Serrano recently directed his Twitter followers to the online store. The move generated more than 1,100 orders in a day.

Say what? I thought it was agreed that online shopping has killed retail. But wait! Maybe social media can save the day.

USA Today recently reposted an article by Jeffrey Lee Puckett from the Louisville Courier-Journal that highlights the possibilities. (Hat Tip: ArtsJournal.)

“Two years ago, [writer Shea Serrano] and some friends started the FOH [not translatable for family blog] ARMY and began practicing random acts of kindness such as raising money to help send a teacher to Turkey.

“Wednesday [May 17] was the group’s first FOH Indie Bookstore Day. Carmichael’s [Kids] was endorsed by Serrano after one of the store’s employees, Mark Schultz, messaged Serrano and questioned his decision to include a link to Amazon in an earlier tweet.

” ‘Some guy who works there sent me a message one day and he seemed nice so that’s why I decided to try and do the 1K in a Day thing for them,’ Serrano said in a Twitter message. …

“Serrano is best-known for his 2015 book, The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed. …

‘The really cool thing is that he’s not encouraging people to buy his book. He’s encouraging people to buy any book,’ said Carol Besse, co-owner of Carmichael’s. ‘The orders have been so interesting, all across the board, all good stuff.’

“To pay back Serrano’s kindness, Carmichael’s will offer free shipping on all FOH ARMY orders, Besse said.” More here.

This twitter effort strikes me as a variation of the cash mob, which I don’t believe can be the salvation of a retail business in and of itself. Although I have to say the West Concord 5&10, which was the focus of a cash mob I described here, is still going.

The Holy Grail for retail will probably be some combination of online and bricks-and-mortar that recognizes customers like to have their purchases delivered to their homes and that also takes into account what sorts of products absolutely need to be handled before purchase.

But the article shows that it doesn’t hurt to have employees who notice Amazon references on social media and say, “Hey, what about us little guys?”

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The West Concord 5 & 10 is a crammed-to-the-gills, family-run institution, the place you go for what used to be called notions and sundries — and for anything you have tried and failed to find anywhere else.

But the 5 & 10 may be on its last legs as a result of long-term changes in shopping patterns and the collapse of a supplier that gave credit.

A cash mob was organized for today, and the faithful turned up in droves, promising to spend at least $20. Whether the show of loyalty can save the business for the family remains to be seen, but it must have warmed the cockles of their hearts.

Nancy Shohet West’s article Thursday in the Globe West helped to get the word out:

“According to [store manager Chris] Curtis, his main supplier, Arrow Wholesale Inc. in Worcester, which had provided quirky inventory to small, dime-store-type businesses all over the country for generations, went out of business. That loss, coupled with the decrease in business facing small neighborhood shops everywhere, as more consumers flock to malls, super­stores or online, was draining the lifeblood out of the West Concord 5 & 10.”

Organizer Polly “Stadt said she and her 13-year-old daughter, Emma Hill, agreed that this was awful news. Browsing the shelves for inexpensive, amusing, or useful items was a tradition not only among adults in the community but among children Emma’s age as well. They decided something had to be done, and then Stadt remembered a tactic to save a local business that a friend in Texas had told her about: a cash mob.

“In a cash mob, according to the website www.cashmob.com, committed supporters ‘come together to shop in a locally owned establishment to support their favorite local business and support the area economy. Each ‘mobber’ spends an agreed-upon amount, usually $20.

“Stadt and her daughter said they decided a cash mob was just what the West Concord 5 & 10 needed, providing an influx of money and, more importantly, bringing attention to its plight. They talked to Curtis, chose a date — the first Saturday in March — and started putting out the word: Emma on Facebook, and her mother by e-mail and word of mouth.”

Now I’m just hoping we didn’t strip the shelves so customers in the weeks to come find nothing to buy.

More about a wonderful store and about how social media may help save it.

saving the 5&10

West Concord 5&10

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I’m learning about cash mobs and how they are used to help small businesses and promote economic development.

I like that it’s kind of a surprise for the business. The town selects a shop for some policy reason like wanting to revitalize a particular part of town or to encourage a promising entrepreneur. It promotes the business for a cash-mob day and encourages local folks to spend some money. People do because it’s fun, and because they, too, want to help.

“A cash mob works like this,” writes the Globe. “City officials, civic groups, or individuals use social media, blogs, and e-mail to spread the word about the event. As @Lowellcashmob tweeted this week, ‘Infusing revenue into Lowell businesses, you never know where the cash mob will strike!’ …

“Merchants do not run them, but are selected for a ‘hit.’ Participants are encouraged to spend $10 to $20. There often aren’t any discounts or incentives — it’s less about nabbing a Black Friday bargain and more about sharing the wealth.” More here.

Got me thinking. How else could this work? Could the town choose a local blood bank for a cash-mob day? How about a “paint the youth center” day? Or a day to buy something at the Pirate Supply Store to support the tutoring program? Would people think that was fun, too?


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