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Ca$h Mobs provide much-needed boost to regional retailers

John Seelmeyer

Six months after their introduction in Reno and Sparks, Ca$h Mobs are spreading elsewhere in northern Nevada.

The largely informal initiative, which calls for consumers to spend $10 or $20 at a locally owned business on a designated day, has brought a strong shot of sales to a half dozen companies in Reno this year.

Retailers say it’s hard to track the ongoing benefit after the mob departs, although they’re certain that Ca$h Mob is a gift that keeps on giving.

Spearheaded by Randy Pease and Steve Funk of PROBIS Ltd. of Reno, the initiative each month identifies a locally owned retailer that appeals to a wide swath of consumers men and women alike then calls for members of a Facebook group to spend $10 or $20 at the store on the third Tuesday of the month.

About 450 people are members of the Facebook group, and monthly events have been drawing as many as 70 to 80 consumers, says Pease.

The idea has spread to Douglas County, where a Ca$h Mob event is set for Oct. 6 at Fresh Ideas in Gardnerville. The nonprofit Main Street Gardnerville and its program manager, Paula Lochridge, created that program.

Buy local efforts in Gardnerville and Minden are taking on greater urgency with Walmart’s construction of a store in Gardnerville.

“There is just as strong a need in Fallon, Fernley, Carson, Truckee and the Lake Tahoe Basin and I’d be happy to mentor anyone who wants to make a difference in their own communities,” says Funk, who works a day job as director of media services for PROBIS Ltd.

The events have drawn substantial attention each time from newspapers and broadcast stations in the Reno-Sparks market, and they’ve provided a quick boost in sales to the local retailers.

“It was a good day, and we saw a lot of new faces,” says Paul Doege, owner of Recycled Records in Reno, the site of the first Ca$h Mob event in April.

He says sales on that day totaled about 50 percent above the average daily take, but it’s hard to tell if the Ca$h Mob shoppers became regular customers of the store.

On the other hand, Doege says, anything that brings new shoppers into Recycled Records is certain to have some benefit.

Marshall Roberson says the Discount Office Supply store he owns at 727 W. 5th St. saw about 10 additional customers when it was spotlighted in last month’s Ca$h Mob promotion.

But he says the residual effects of the promotion may prove to be greater than the one-day sales. Members of the Facebook group were continuing to drop by the store more than a week later, and Roberson says the publicity he received on local television stations is invaluable.

Businesses that participate in the Ca$h Mob are selected from suggestions made by participating shoppers.

Pease notes the program is anything but a gift to the retailers.

“The merchants themselves have given more than asked of them each time, working their own networks, setting up snacks and beverages, balloons, signs, special pricing for ‘Ca$h Mobsters’ and things to make the experience more memorable for the faces they’ll see,” he says.

Reporters and editors have been diligent in covering the story, Pease says, and the organizers kept the program as simple as possible to help ensure ongoing media exposure.

Pease and Funk modeled the Reno-Sparks Ca$h Mob program on a similar initiative in a small Pennsylvania town that had spread to about a half dozen states.

“Our local businesses need help more than those in most states,” Pease says.

Funk says the campaign allows consumers to take a role in turning around the region’s economy, rather than waiting for elected officials and business leaders to take the lead.

Pease and Funk, who have been putting about eight hours a month into organizing Ca$h Mob events, are looking for volunteers to lend a hand. They can be contacted through Probisreno.com.