Katy Plummer has a policy: if something’s a good idea, don’t just think it, do it. So rather than just pondering on an idea to organise something to help support the 99-year-old owner of a miniscule haberdashery shop, she sprung into action.
Plummer owns Manly’s Desire Books second-hand bookshop, which is right next to Fay Morley’s Park Lane Haberdashery. Last Saturday she organised a ‘cash mob’ to inject some energy and revenue into the button and ribbon-filled shop.
A cash mob is similar to a flash mob, only with money. A flash mob involves people performing an impromptu and sometimes choreographed dance or performance in front of a surprised audience at an every-day location such as a shopping mall. A cash mob is similar, except the idea is for the group to descend on a shop and spend a small amount of money to help assist the enterprise.
Plummer set up a Facebook page to spread the word about the cash mob, encouraging people to spend just $5 at Mrs Morley’s shop. More than 100 people registered to attend the event. When Fairfax arrived to check out the action, there was a queue of people waiting in line to go into Mrs Morley’s store. Trade appeared to be pretty brisk at Desire as well, where brightly coloured bunting, popcorn and cordial lent a festive air.
Mrs Morley ordered new stock in preparation and Plummer had also borrowed an urn so Mrs Morley could sell cups of tea in the event the cash mob cleared out the shop of stock.
Mrs Morley still works five-and-a-half days a week and has run the shop for 17 years.
“I lived in the country but when my sister-in-law died suddenly the kids said why don’t you run the shop,” she explains.
“ I don’t do that much business, and I don’t make the rent but [running the shop] is therapy really because I meet such nice people.”
Mrs Morley has no plans to retire and prides herself on allowing customers to buy just one button, if that is all they need.
“I never sell packet stuff. If mum wants just enough elastic for a pair of kid’s pants that’s fine. Kids are our future and I have to keep things going because it’s hard to raise kids. If [what I’m doing] helps then it suits me [to keep running the shop].”
Plummer came up with an easy way for Mrs Morley to understand how she used Facebook to drum up interest in the cash mob.
“How do you describe Facebook to someone who was a grown up when the [Sydney harbour] bridge was built? How I explained it was that I’d invited my friends, and they’d invited their friends, who’d also invited their friends,” she says.
Cash mobs appear to be a phenomenon that has only sprung to life over the past year. A WordPress blog (http://cashmobs.wordpress.com/) claims the first cash mob was held in Buffalo, New York State on 5 August 2011 and organised by a local blogger Christopher Smith. He arranged for more than 100 people to cash mob a local liquor store, City Wine Merchant.
Since then cash mobs have happened across the US and around the world to support local nurseries, bookshops and craft shops, among others.
Here are some of the rules of cash mobs, according to the above WordPress blog:
- The mob date and meeting location must be announced at least a week in advance via Twitter, Facebook and/or email.
- The amount to spend will not be more than $20, although people can spend more if they wish.
- The business must have products that cost less than $20 for both men and women.
- The business must be locally owned and independently operated.
- The business owner must give back to the community in some way.
- The business owner must approve the cash mob before the mob is announced.
- The business must be within one block of a locally-owned watering hole.
- Cash mobbers must have celebratory drinks after the successful mob.
- The cash mob will occur during the evening on a weekday or on a weekend.
- Parking or public transportation must be available.