Chamber cranks up local spending

By Wayne Bryan Published August 26, 2012 at 3:12 a.m.
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— On Thursday, a mob will make its way to Hardman’s Interiors in Arkadelphia.

Participants in the mob may have to push to get inside, but they will be moving together for a cause.

It is a cause that the owners and employees of the store also endorse - a cash mob.

The event is a new effort being coordinated across the country by chambers of commerce. The cash mob that will make its way down Pine Street on Thursday to Hardman’s is being led by members of the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance and Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We want to remind people to shop local,” said Shelley Loe, chamber and retail services director for the alliance. “It also creates publicity for the chamber and gets our members involved. It’s a service to our members and to the local economy. It also brings some excitement.” Loe has been coordinating the cash mobs for the last several weeks, but the program started in April after Shawnie Carrier, alliance president and CEO, and Debbie Sorrells, alliance communications director, attended a chamber of commerce regional conference in March.

“We heard about cash mobs in a program of new ideas,” Carrier said. “We just made a list of our retail and restaurant members and placed them on pieces of paper and placed them in a silver bowl. We would draw a name and get our members to that business to shop.”

The key to the successful mob is getting the word out quietly, and the cash mob is a business version of the flash mobs that would gather in a public place, drawn by text messages and social media, then sing, dance or protest without warning.

When the Arkadelphia version of the cash mob began, it was given a little tweaking.

“We would not tell our members where the mob would be held until the day before, and we didn’t tell the business until then, as well,”Carrier said. “That didn’t give them time to prepare. So we have tweaked it along the way.”

Sorrells, who is in change of special projects for the alliance, had been leading the mobs until Loe joined as chamber director. Sorrells said the retail stores that were the target of the mobs have enjoyed big business days, and chamber members enjoyed the fun.

“One of the biggest successes was for a florist, Mary & Martha’s,” she said. “They were prepared and offered 25percent off, and of course, everyone wants to send someone flowers.”

Loe said one business told her that the mob brought in customers who had never been in the store.

The alliance has also decided to open the mobs up so the public knows about the events. Low said that will help generate more business for the target business and also create more interest in alliance activities.

Meanwhile, the chamber is seeing some benefits.

“We have had some members who just pay their dues and don’t take part in our events,” Carrier said. “Now we are getting some new volunteers for all our projects and events.”

Cathy Hathcoat, the buyer for the gift section of Hardman’s Interiors, said she is excited about the mob coming to the store.

“We hope we have a great crowd. We are clearing out some of the summer items to make way for Christmas home decorations,” she said.

“Customers will draw a slip that will tell them the percentage off they will receive for their entire purchase, and we will have refreshments and door prizes.”

The cash mob will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Carrier said that because not all chamber members are retailers and cannot have a cash mob at their door, the alliance is exploring other ideas for more member benefits and fun.

She said the alliance is looking at offering a member shopping card that industrial members and larger companies could give out to their employees.

“Imagine, it could be thousands of those cards out in the community going from business to business, getting a discount,” Carrier said.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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