Mobile fashion truck trend brings innovation to retail
Retail trucks keep vintage shoppers, sneakerheads on their toes
Published: Thursday, October 6, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 6, 2011 10:10
On the Road
Unlike traditional storefronts and even their food truck counterparts, mobile retail trucks benefit from their ability to move from location to location on a whim. Green Street Vault, for example, sets up shop just about anywhere in the suburbs of Boston depending on the weather, the day and the demand from customers.
"Food trucks are now limited to food truck spots in specific locations. Whereas we can just pull up to a spot, pay for two, three hours and then just set up shop," Cheung explained. "[But that's] only because no one's really done this before in the way that we're doing it."
While Green Street Vault sets up shop in places like Porter Square and MIT, the heftiness of The Fashion Truck — which spans two car lengths — makes maneuvering around the city too difficult. As a result, The Fashion Truck makes its rounds outside of Boston.
"I've been focused on being very targeted in where I go and who I go to," Benson said.
In fact, Benson has developed a three-pronged approach to reaching clientele, including events like the SoWa Open Market, private parties and a mix of going out on the streets and building up an online store.
Hoping to expand her customer base, Benson also uses her fashion expertise with services to help clients organize their closets, build their wardrobes, put together outfits and act as their personal shopper. In addition, Benson explains that hosting private parties on The Fashion Truck is a huge opportunity for business at the moment.
"Women love getting together with other women. And parties are a social experience — as is shopping — so the two go hand in hand," Benson said. "I'll drive to your house on a Friday night at 7:00 and you can have a really fun night with your girlfriends and shop."
What about when things get too cold in New England over the winter? The Fashion Truck will quite literally be migrating south to Florida for the season until things warm up for its return in April.
While it may be harder for people to make their way to the shop when it is hopping around town, this aspect of spontaneity is what keeps customers coming back for more. By constantly updating their Twitter, Facebook and website pages with their changes in location, Cheung and Travis allow customers to keep track of where the Green Street Vault will be at any given time in the Boston area.
"It's really easy for us because it's just me and Howard on the truck every day," Cheung said. "So if someone tells us I need this in this size, we'll write it down and get it for them. We'll tweet at them on their personal Twitter accounts, they'll come out to us."
Great Things Come in Small Packages
Because fashion trucks have such limited storage, all three mobile retail truck owners agree that innovation and creativity in opening up the space and designing displays within these confines is key. One solution is to have a quick turnover of products so things don't get too cluttered.
Fortunately for Chase, being a fashion blogger gives her access to a huge outreach of shoppers that keep a steady stream of business flowing in. "We've been able to have a really good turnover rate. So each event that I do, we have to restock the store," Chase said.
For newcomer Green Street Vault, it's all about economizing space for their mix of brand name and local Boston-based street-wear apparel and sneakers.
"We buy small runs in pretty much everything because we like to keep our inventory fresh," Cheung explained. "We like to cycle through all of the inventory that we have to make the space work."
Fun, Fresh Fashion on Wheels
So, what is it about buying things out of a truck that people find so appealing? For mobile retail boutiques, it's as much about the products as it is about the unique customer experience.
"The novelty aspect of the truck is still so fresh," Benson said. "Most women, — and guys, actually — young and old, have this sense of ‘Wow, this is cool.' And that's what I'm going for."
It's this originality and element of surprise that Chase also believes make fashion trucks so sought after. "We shop every day and consume everything. But when there's an extra element involved in an unexpected place, it's fun," Chase said.
Cheung said that the ultimate goal for mobile retail trucks — as with any traditional retail store in today's economy — is to "create an experience for the customer that they can't find anywhere else, which is what we do every day."
Benson's goal, simply put? "I just want people to leave with a smile."