It all started with the taco trucks, which made the idea of buying a quality product from the back of something with four wheels an everyday experience. Their growing success has inspired other aspiring business owners to take their business on the road, too. What is next on the mobile retail horizon? Fashion trucks, or mobile boutiques, are a new business trend which lets aspiring entrepreneurs turn sidewalks into catwalks. And just like the food trucks, their numbers are growing in major cities across the country as well as in Canada.
The Mobile Retail Association lists over eighty members in operation throughout every region in the country, and two members from Canada. One of the goals of the association is to “lift outdated restrictions on mobile retail vending.”
Because the fashion truck, or mobile boutique, is such a new trend, many cities do not know how to regulate it. Recently, Emily Dobbie and Ashley Barber went in front of the Toronto City Council to make their case for mobile retail. The two explained that the way they approach retail is a new concept and not a financial threat to brick and mortar stores because the type of clients that mobile trucks attract are not the same kind that would being going to a traditional store.
Barber explained that the trucks use social media, like Facebook and Twitter, to let people know where they will be located on any particular day. For that reason, the trucks can bring people to places that might not be as busy as major shopping areas. The stores in that area can benefit from the extra foot traffic.
Besides being able to bring more people to less trafficked areas, the trucks also have another advantage. Because they are relatively small, the turnover rate of their merchandise is high. In the average retail store, the stock can be there for weeks or even months. In a truck, it could change on a daily basis.
And the prices could be lower, too. Stacey Steffe and friend Jeanine Romo started the first fashion truck in L.A., Le Fashion Truck, in January of 2011. At that time, Steffe estimated that to get everything they needed to the business get up and running cost about the same as the first month’s rent in a leased storefront.
Another city experiencing growing pains over how to regulate mobile vendors is San Francisco. According to an article in the Examiner, it is not just fashion boutiques that are going mobile, dog groomers, art galleries and beauty salons are going mobile, too. The city’s small business commission is working on drafting regulations and creating a permitting process for mobile vendors. And if they do, they will be the first major city in the country to have rules in place. But for now, when people come into the business permit office, looking for a permit for their mobile business, they are simply told that one does not exist.
Many of the people who become mobile vendors have a similar story. They love what they do, enjoying meeting new people, and did not have enough money to open a traditional store.
Given the tough economy, chances are the number of mobile vendors will only go up. Both the Mobile Retail Association and the West Coast Mobile Retail Association offer workshops for anyone interested in learning how to get their own fashion truck business off the ground and become a part of the newest trend in mobile retail.
By Dan Reyes