In London, retailers strappedfor cash use a novel methodto raise funds.

Once upon a time, if you were broke you begged, borrowed or stole. But in the age of the Internet, all you need to do is click a few buttons and you may have people coming and giving you the cash. The phenomenon is called “cash mob” and it uses social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to mobilise cash-bearing mobs.

First tried in America, it has now arrived in Britain with a cash-starved bookshop in east London becoming the first to use it to raise money. The “Pages of Hackney”, a small independent bookstore, was nearly over-run with customers in response to Twitter and Facebook messages alerting them to a “cash mob” event there.

Among them were many who seldom bought books. They said it was more about joining a social event and than buying a book — which, of course, they did.

According to The Financial Times , by the time the store closed its doors it had made more than £500 — “its best day in 2012”.

Eleanor Lowenthal, who owns the shop, said: “We are hoping to have a nice boost in sales but also to raise our profile and also the profile of the cash-mobbing initiative in general.”

More high street retailers hit by recession are expected to use “cash mobbing” to drum up sales using a website created by Ken Banks, an IT specialist. He also plans a “cash mob” app for mobile phones.

HASAN SUROOR