Forget the flash mob – can cash mobs boost Australian small businesses?

An inner-Sydney bookstore will be the starting point for Australia’s first “cash mob” gathering this weekend, as part of a grassroots campaign to help local businesses.

Tomorrow is “International Cash Mob Day”, when people will converge on local small businesses to spend their money en masse. The group’s website says there are almost 200 cash mobs around the world.

“Cash Mobs isn’t a political or social organisation, a corporation, a movement, or meant to be an answer to economic crisis,” the Cash Mobs website says.

“By and large, those that organise Cash Mobs are simply people trying to make a positive impact on the businesses in their communities (and have fun while doing it)!”

The Sydney starting point is Ariel Books in Paddington, which welcomes the idea.

Employee Will Schees Frances says local support means the business is doing okay, but the introduction of clearways has dented foot-traffic.

“We could always use more customers. Hopefully if people come [on Saturday], they’ll come back.”

Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia and also a bookstore owner, says he “loves” the idea of a cash mob.

Strong says people are really starting to understand the importance of local shops and services.

“People say, ‘What effect is it going to have?’ It’s having an effect because people are talking about it.”

“And I’d like to say that we’ll never see a special day for big business, because every day is big business day.”

“It’s a bit like men complaining about International Women’s Day.”

The cash mob campaign comes after a grassroots campaign for small business service providers at the end of last year.

The campaign – which appeared to have started in the US but spread through social media to Australia – urged people to scrap “monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods” from “giant Asian factories” in favour of local, owner-owned producers and service providers.

“Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?” an email, entitled Australian Christmas 2011 – Birth of a New Tradition 2011, said.

“Remember, folks, this isn’t about big national chains – this is about supporting your home town with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

“When we care about other Australians, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.”

The local cash mob group was contacted for comment, but did not respond before deadline. Organiser Mark MacSmith told news.com.au that the idea was a “shining light on buying local and how nice it is to go into a local store.”

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