March 12, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Mobile's First Cash Mob Deemed A Success

March 9, 2012

Urban Emporium logo.jpg

MOBILE, Alabama -- It turns out, staying open after hours has its benefits.

Retailers selling their wares at the Urban Emporium on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile discovered that for themselves Thursday evening as their store was chosen as the location of the area's first "cash mob" shopping venture.

The cash mob concept began on the East Coast in the summer of 2011 and consists of groups of people, usually brought together via social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, who pick a local business to shop in for a pre-determined period of time.

For Thursday's kickoff, organizers with the Downtown Mobile Alliance chose the Urban Emporium -- a business incubation space with seven current retailers selling everything from scented candles and marinades to women's apparel and pet supplies.

"I wasn't familiar with the concept at all," said Michael Pittillo, site manager at the Emporium. "I think it's great, but I wanted to see it for myself."

Pittillo said the Alliance asked him to keep the space open later than its usual closing time, and after 30 minutes of business, he wore a smile that lasted the rest of the evening.

The only suggested guidelines for the event were that shoppers spend at least $20 in an hour. The Alliance's goal was to have at least 20 people attend the mob, and even though light rains threatened around the 6 p.m. start time, that goal was met.

"The shop local movement has really emerged as a trend," said Carol Hunter, communications director for the Alliance. "This is where your money can really make a difference."

It was making a difference Thursday, as most shoppers spent far more than $20 during the hour, some making piles of goods on the countertops to keep things organized.

Her hands full of future purchases, Germantown, Tenn., resident Dusty Stem laughed when asked if she was limiting her purchases to $20.

"You kidding? I've never been in this store before,"Stem said. "I'm buying bridge and canasta prizes, soaps, all kinds of stuff."

Downtown resident and businesswoman Stacy Wellborn admitted she was an experienced Urban Emporium shopper, having bought Christmas presents for six people at the shop in 2011. She said she easily found $40 worth of items to buy, covering her pledge and that of an absent friend.

"I think anything we can do to help our local businesses helps the vibrancy of our downtown," Wellborn said.

Nearby, Pittillo, the site manager, was still smiling as two women organized their selections of small gift items on the counter in front of him.

"It's like Christmas when people make their stacks up like that, waiting to purchase them," Pittillo said. "We'd extend (our hours) every week if they had this every week."

There's no word on a cash mob for next week, but a separate group has planned one for Saturday, from 4 to 6 p.m. And this time, the location isn't a secret: it's being held at the vintage shop Papillon at 9 S. Joachim St.

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