19 Aug Trucks drive retail revolution in fashion, other business areas
Aspiring entrepreneur Brenda Aranda of Stockton opened her cozy business selling jewelry, maxi dresses, jeans and other rocker chic fashions out of a truck this month.
She will bring her mobile boutique to a client’s home for a party, or shoppers can follow her on Twitter to find out the next festival La Bella Mobile Boutique is attending.
“I had my grand opening two weekends ago,” Aranda, 27, of La Bella, said. “This is a weekend job and a hobby. We will see where it carries me.”
Tacos aren’t the only thing sold out of trucks.
According to the American Mobile Retail Association, a growing number of vendors are finding mobile boutiques are faster and cheaper to open than traditional brick-and-mortar stores. “We currently have 75 members in the association. There are around 300 retail trucks nationally, whereas this time a year ago year there were maybe 100. I anticipate the number of retail trucks in America to triple by the end of 2014 with at least 600 trucks if not more,” Stacey Steffe, president and co-founder of the AMRA, said. “We’re also seeing cities adopting laws and licenses specific to mobile retail trucks, and insurance companies striving to create the perfect policy.”
The trade association operates a blog at americanmobileretailassociation.blogspot.com where shoppers can find links to mobile retailers.
Aranda, who has always had an interest in fashion, found a mentor in Jasmin Baros, who has operated JasyB Boutique out of a truck in the Bay Area for a year now.
“I basically told her how it works and how to avoid the same mistakes I made,” Baros said. “It looks like she did an awesome job.”
Baros said she knows of four or five mobile vendors in the San Joaquin County area including The Butler’s Pantry, a retro-looking truck out of Escalon featuring kitchen goods such as table linens, home decor, cookware, and chef’s tools.
Jamie Butler, who has more than five years experience as a buyer for a kitchen store, started her mobile business in May and said her biggest challenge has been educating potential customers.
“It’s a new concept and not everyone understands they can come inside the truck to shop,” Butler, who has been taking The Butler’s Pantry truck to antique and flea markets in San Francisco, to local farmers markets and fruit stands, private events and even school fundraisers.
On its Facebook page, The Butler’s Pantry features pictures of its latest inventory including an adorable line of owl-shaped cookie jars.
Other mobile vendors hawk pet products, salon services, shoes, personal training and more.
“I get to change my storefront every day,” Butler said of the mobility a truck affords. “One day my view might be the San Francisco Bay. Another day, I’m in Livingston enjoying the country.”
Unlike a taco truck, though, Aranda isn’t parked in one particular Stockton corner.
For now, she is hoping to book parties where hosts receive incentives, and she is looking to park at more community events such as Taste of San Joaquin, where she was selling her inventory Saturday.
Tina Zook invited La Bella Boutique to her 31st birthday party earlier this month and warned her BFFs to bring their wallets.
“The truck is amazing. It’s so cute and adorably decorated,” Zook said. “I bought a maxi dress, a bracelet and a pair of lacy shorts.”
Mobile vendors use social media to let customers know when and where they will be parked.
La Bella Mobile Boutique can be found online on Twitter @labellamobile and on Facebook by searching La Bella Mobile Boutique.
It’s just another low-cost way to keep overhead down for the budding business owners.
“Finding a truck was my biggest challenge. It’s actually an old FedEx truck,” she said of the truck that’s been custom outfitted. “The inside looks kind of like a big closet. It has wood floors, a chandelier and rods for the clothing. It also has a fitting room.”
The American Mobile Retail Association reports that trucks can cost between $2,500 and $20,000, maybe more depending on work needed on the interior and exterior. Once that’s done, monthly expenses include auto and liability insurance and gas — a far cheaper bill than rent for retail space.
But Butler warns that vendor fees can be hefty and add up quickly.
“Modesto asked me to come to a home expo and they wanted to charge me $1,800,” Butler said Thursday as she prepared to go to Sacramento where she was meeting up at a public park with some food trucks. “It varies wildly. A vendor fee can be anywhere from $35 to thousands of dollars. That’s probably my biggest monthly expense.”
Even though she is just getting started, Aranda is already thinking outside the truck.
“My goal is to see how this goes,” she said. “Maybe in a year or so I can open in a permanent space.”
Contact reporter Jo Ann Kirby at (209) 546-8256 or firstname.lastname@example.org.