Cash mob helps promote local businesses

This past weekend, approximately 100 people participated in a cash mob on Love, Me Boutique led by Yelp Halifax.

Ben Boudreau waits for the cash mob to begin on Saturday. (Emma Davie photo)

By Emma Davie

A mob descended upon Love, Me Boutique this past weekend – but it wasn’t to wreak havoc. In fact, it was to help support local businesses in Halifax.

On Saturday, March 10, approximately 100 people led by Yelp Halifax participated in a cash mob.

Cash mobs are organized groups of people who invade businesses, with each individual spending even just a small amount of money. The aim is to have a concentrated amount of business to help the shop in need, and to promote local businesses in Halifax.

“A cash mob is as easy as any organized group of people getting together and descending upon one favourite local business, for sort of a quick shot in the arm of economic stimulus,” said Ben Boudreau, community manager for Yelp Halifax.

Yelp is an international social networking website that connects local businesses within a community. Local business owners can create a profile for free to promote their business, and consumers can write reviews about local businesses they visit.

Yelp sticker found on local businesses around Halifax. (Emma Davie photo)

Since Yelp aims to promote local businesses, when Boudreau heard about cash mobs, he believed it would be a great thing to introduce to the Halifax community.

Boudreau spent 10 days using social media websites like Yelp, Facebook and Twitter to get people involved with the cash mob. On Saturday, those who were interested met in front of the Spring Garden Road Memorial Public Library.

“Who doesn’t love to shop for a good cause? … It’s exciting not knowing where we’re going, too,” said Meegan Dowe who heard about the cash mob via Twitter.

The location of the cash mob was kept a secret until right before the group departed and made their way to Love, Me Boutique on Birmingham Street.

Love, Me Boutique carries jewelry, clothing and many other decorative items all made by Canadian artists – many of them from Halifax.

People in the cash mob await their departure. (Emma Davie photo)


Participants were encouraged to spend any amount of money, and were given a free Yelp tote bag if they spent more than $20. Other local businesses around the city such as Susie’s Shortbreads, The Old Triangle and Freeman’s Little New York, offered discounts to anyone who showed their receipt from the cash mob.

Love, Me Boutique owner Chara Kingston was thrilled to see such support from the community.

“It’s not just a money thing, it’s not just an exchange of money, it’s the fact that people showed up and they wanted to support me and my business, and within my business is all handmade Canadian artisans. For them to support me, they’re supporting all these people, and that’s incredible.”

The location was chosen after a Yelp member told Boudreau that Love, Me Boutique had been struggling the past year.

Love, Me Boutique owner Chara Kingston helps customers during the cash mob rush. (Emma Davie photo)

“There’s challenges (to being a small business owner), absolutely. And this year in particular has been very challenging. We have two massive construction projects happening on our street, as well as, you know, economy and all sorts of other things,” said Kingston.

Jen Parker, who also works at the boutique, added that this was an incredible experience for any local business.

“We live here (in Halifax). And unless we want to be resigned to streets full of apartment buildings and grocery stores, there needs to be something a little extra. And I think there’s a lot of really cool local businesses that make Halifax what it is,” Parker said.

In 90 minutes, Love, Me Boutique made more than $3200.

“To have this happen is great, it’s like winning the lottery,” Kingston said.

Boudreau said that for the first cash mob in the city, and the first for Yelp Canada, the experience was unreal.

“We only had 10 days to pull this together, so the fact that we had 100 people turn out is more than we could have hoped for. I think you can see it in the eyes of the shop owner, she’s completely overwhelmed,” said Boudreau.

Related audio
Ben Boudreau FINAL Ben Boudreau talks about cash mobs and the importance of keeping local business alive.

Boudreau hopes that the event will inspire others to plan their own cash mobs throughout the city, and encourage people to buy locally.

“This city is so filled with local businesses. I think it’s a great town for local, and it’s important that if we want to keep them, we have to support them,” Boudreau said.

Related Links:
Yelp’s Cash Mob Event Page
YouTube Video of Halifax’s First Cash Mob
Business Metrics for Yelp

Boudreau noted that cash mobs are short-term solutions for businesses.

“They’re just one more way we’re trying to get people in the space of thinking local first … Even if you couldn’t make it out to the cash mob today, just take some time to explore the city and give business owners the chance to impress you.”