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'Cash Mob' Phenomenon Supports Local Business

The U.S. economy posted a solid growth in the first quarter, in part due to the biggest consumer spending surge since the end of 2010. A trend sweeping the country is helping to push more of that spending toward local businesses.

What do you get when you mix a store's need for more business with enthusiastic local consumers? A cash mob.

Organized through social media, the phenomenon is based on the concept of a flash mob, where large groups convene in a public area to perform a dance routine. Instead of showing up to dance, these people show up to spend money. This cash mob was organized by Think Local First DC, a group that works to grow the Washington, D.C. economy. Stacey Price is the group's executive director.

"Local businesses are why people stay in a community. They are the character of our community, they give back to our community. If you look at studies you know that $0.68 to every $1.00 goes back into the local economy when people spend at a local business. When you spend at a chain store, only $0.37 goes back into the local economy," explained Price.

The rules of the cash mob are simple. Just show up at a local business at a set time, bring $20 and spend it on anything in the store.

The group chose Pleasant Plains Workshop for this cash mob - to showcase the gallery's unique artwork and crafts. Everything in the store is made by local artists like Chris Haughery.

"I love my work and I like showing my work, but I would be more excited about people being able to see art just in general, and for me to be a part of that, to be able to add to that, you know, is really cool," said Haughery.

Store owner Kristina Bilonick said the event was a huge success.

"It's a win-win, and the sales are just icing on the cake," she said.

The cash mobs organized by Think Local First DC have increased sales for local businesses in Washington by 500 percent. And the mob members say the events are so much fun that they look forward to participating in one again.
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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.