Westfield Chamber of Commerce uses flash mob tactic to boost local businesses

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Westfield Chamber of Commerce board of directors member Tom Warner saw the profitability in flash mobs several years ago.

These “mobs” have garnered attention for suddenly assembling in public, usually dancing or performing in some way, but Warner thought they could simply mean a group of customers suddenly arriving together at a business.

“I said, ‘Why can’t we take this idea of a flash mob and create a cash mob?’” Warner said.

So in 2014, as leaders with the Westfield Chamber of Commerce brainstormed ways to attract more customers to local businesses, Warner suggested tweaking the flash mob concept to benefit local shops.

Every quarter, the chamber selects one business for members to unexpectedly flood at the same time. Members, except for the chosen entity, are notified of the day and time in advance.

Warner, who is the general manager at Frontier Communications, said the goal is to have enough people there to spend about $1,000 in a 30-minute timespan.

It started with My Father’s Garden in late 2014, and other businesses have been hit with the flash mob as well, including Habig Garden Shops, Titus Bakery, Pebbles to Pearls Boutique and Westfield Pharmacy.

“A lot of people who show up have never been in these establishments,” Warner said. “You kind of forget what’s here in town.”

Most recently, the group hit the cafe inside the Grand Park Events Center that is managed by Jonathan Byrd’s.

“We try to stay away from restaurants,” Warner said, acknowledging the difficulty for restaurants to unexpectedly serve large crowds. “The only reason we did that was because they’re kind of out there isolated.”

Warner said the group tries to time the events for slow periods for the specific business. For example, it swarmed Titus Bakery in the late afternoon rather than in the morning.

Sometimes the group is as small as 20 people, but it’s been as large as about 50.

“We’re walking the talk now. We’re doing the buy-local thing,” Warner said. “And we’re using this cash mob to get it done.”

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