Latest Fashions Hit the Streets in Trucks

Discussion
May 16, 2012

In the past couple of years, food trucks have become all the rage in foodservice circles as they have helped expand the notion of what can be achieved in the fast/quick service arenas. So, can the concept of bringing a product to consumers on the street using a truck work for categories other than food? There’s some independent merchants in places such as Boston and Los Angeles who think so and the product they’re peddling is clothing and accessories.

A Boston Business Journal piece described a move by officials in Boston to create a licensing program that would allow seven mobile fashion boutiques to peddle their wares from trucks much like their counterparts in food. Up to this point, the trucks have been keeping the meters filled instead of paying rent for the space. Boston, if an ordinance is passed, would become the first major city to create a licensing program for fashion trucks.

Fashion trucks in New York have not created the same buzz as food trucks, but in Boston, the offerings appear to be more adventurous. Green Street Vault, according to the Boston Business Journal, has been collaborating with designer Annie Muiz on opening a Newbury Street pop-up store. The truck posts its location via social media sites.

[Image: Green Street Vault Truck]

In Los Angeles, Le Fashion Truck bills itself as that city’s first mobile boutique. The concept created by two friends who met at a local arts and crafts market, specializes in vintage fashions and unique jewelry to set itself from its less mobile competitors. The company, which also offers online ordering, lets consumers track where it will be open for business on any given day through its website.

Discussion Questions: What do you think about the mobile boutique opportunity for clothing? Is this something merchants can take advantage of as part of their pop-up strategies?

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15 Comments on "Latest Fashions Hit the Streets in Trucks"


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Ed Dunn
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Word of mouth marketing, social network marketing, location and timing of available fashions and when people have disposable income all has to be in play to make mobile boutiques viable.

People like food trucks because they are hungry. I really do not believe fashion trucks can replicate the success of food trucks.

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Anytime a retailer can take products to market where consumers are, the potential exists to generate sales. The question is whether consumers are willing to trust the merchant enough to complete the sale. Fashion truck owners need to offer the ability to sample the merchandise, as well as take returns. If this is a hassle for consumers, they will like the novelty of looking, but may hesitate to buy.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Am I the only one who’s ever bought something “off the back of a truck”? It’s not really a new idea, but having it be legally obtained product is interesting.

As a certified Food Truck addict, I think the idea has legs. In Miami, we even have FTT — and iPhone Food Truck Tracker, so we can find our favorite truck. I think it’d be really cute to have to chase down your favorite mobile boutique.

As long as people aren’t disrobing in the street to try on their new outfits, I think it’ll work just fine.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Kenneth Cole started this trend years ago and it worked for him, and it will work today. Park a fashion truck in a crowded downtown area and watch new customers flood out of office buildings. I love it.

Roger Saunders
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Spontaneous shopping adventures have to meet the “location, quality, price” criteria of Consumers. Fashion Trucks can meet these needs.

“Selection” has to be targeted here, as a result of space shortages. May fit the bill in larger cities and around college campuses. That selection would have to have merchandise flexibility — e.g. — if it’s raining stock up on umbrellas for the day, if it’s snowing, bring out the totes.

The entrepreneurs who will be working the trucks, have to have reasonable access to merchandise, keep it fresh and happening. This has some appeal for the 16-24 year old segment, but it is a curiosity for someone beyond this age.

Put on the music, and draw a crowd. It might prove a revenue stream for some of the nation’s recent college grads who are still looking for a job.

Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

This is taking the concept too far. Trucks are for relieving immediate needs…but fashion? No, this does not have an immediate need. This is a solution looking for a problem.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 1 month ago

Hey, we have a fashion truck right here in Sacramento! It’s called “Gypsy,” and received excited coverage in the Sacramento Bee yesterday. Here’s a link.

The owners have spent about $30,000 so far, including renovating a U.S. Postal Service truck, and after about a month on the road indicate that they are meeting their goals. I hope it works out and that we see more iterations of the mobile retail concept.

Now, if only Snap-On Tools would sell to consumers out of the backs of their trucks.

Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 1 month ago
This will work in some urban neighborhoods, and not in others. Seeing Kenneth Cole’s name mentioned, can’t resist a semi-related story. I knew him 30 years ago, and when he left his family’s shoe business to start up on his own, the footwear trade show at the New York Hilton — an important national event — told him it was too late for him to arrange for space and essentially locked him out of a crucial show. So he applied to the city, under the name of Kenneth Cole Productions, for permission to shoot a movie outside the Hilton. Of course he’d need a big rig truck parked outside the hotel for the week, and he got his permit for that. He sent out postcards to the entire industry, inviting them to his trailer outside the hotel. And he had the models, the shoes, the kleig lights, and the movie cameras, which didn’t happen to have any film. Natch, he got enormous interest in his line, and he was launched successfully. The rest of the… Read more »
Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
10 years 1 month ago

For indie apparel merchants, the mobile boutique is a fantastic idea. They can create a following by selling the unique apparel and accessories that shoppers won’t find at chain stores and in limited quantities. And being mobile allows them to operate pretty much wherever they want, like parking the store at street festivals, in hip urban areas after many other stores have closed, and near colleges and universities.

Mobile boutiques are also an opportunity for established apparel chains. But such chains must create something really unique, i.e., stocking apparel/accessories that aren’t available at their typical stores. Given the deeper pockets of established chains, the mobile store could also be a chance to go a few miles beyond other mobile stores, e.g., partnering with a popular food truck (or creating their own food offering to complement their fashions) or perhaps mounting pop-up fashion shows.

Lee Kent
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

I think this is a great concept that will allow some brands to expand outside the four walls and go to where their customers are. How about an athletic store truck placed in the park where an athletic event is taking place, etc?

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
10 years 1 month ago

Hmmmmm — trucks work really well for food because food is a transactional, non-durable item that we all need to buy 3x a day. Clothing and accessories don’t meet those criteria. There is already a thriving channel Etsy-style clothing and accessory designers to sell their wares at craft shows, upscale flea markets and larger “farmer’s markets.” I don’t see how doing it from a truck adds much more than a fixed expense. I’m going to say this will be a fad.

Alyson Anderson
Guest
Alyson Anderson
10 years 1 month ago

There is a lot of opportunity for creative retailers to go mobile. Those that can find a niche and offer great product have only upside. We talked more about this last year in our newsletter. We hope entrepreneurs will continue to come up with ways to make shopping more convenient and fun for their customers.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
10 years 1 month ago

As a fun, social-network inspired quick pop-up (even done repeatedly in various locations), I love it. As a unique and quirky way for a great fashion concept to introduce itself as a one-off, I love it. As an ongoing sole business model? No.

Verlin Youd
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

As some have commented, this is a bit of ‘back to the future’, although a bit more legitimate than “back of the truck” purchasing from the past. Bottom line, everyone is more time starved than ever. Taking a desired product to a target market cuts down on the time investment required to make a purchase, turning the convenience into a compelling offer if the retailer gets the merchandise, target market, and price point right.

I can easily see where it could make sense for a women’s clothing store catering to the market of career women to implement a mobile boutique concept. This seems to be the ultimate application of the first rule of retail — location, location, location.

Just a thought, but what about piggy-backing with laundry/dry cleaning and charitable clothing donation services?

Amy Chase
Guest
Amy Chase
10 years 1 month ago

When I stated researching mobile shops in 2008, I couldn’t find any … Skip ahead to 2012 there is 62 in the USA … and many more overseas! My mobile shop makes enough money in 8 hours to pay the rent of a retail space for a month. Also it attracts press and media that a stand alone shop would never get.

It may be a fad … but my shop is in its 4th year!

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