We all know food trucks are now a staple in the diet of any big city. They’ve revolutionized how many of us eat and they’ve put brick and mortar restaurants on notice. So, could the business model work for another favourite pastime: shopping?
Ashley Mitobe is the owner and operator of Fashiontruck Canada, one of the country’s first mobile boutique shopping trucks located in the Greater Toronto Area. A stylist by trade, she teamed up with her friend Emily in 2014 to create and eventually start up their fashion truck. The vehicle, a 2010 Budget delivery van nicknamed Eve, is 270-square feet of mobile fashion eye candy. It’s filled with the latest designs and biggest names in women’s fashion from Canada and around the world.
But, like any new idea, getting this mobile business up and running wasn’t without its challenges. Originally, the pair assumed the perfect place for their fashion truck would be the myriad music and food festivals in the Toronto area. But they quickly discovered that wasn’t the case. People who were coming out for music or food weren’t prepared to drop cash on clothes shopping. Meanwhile, the best parking spots in Toronto were either too expensive or simply not available.
“It was really hard to find a place to make a business like this work,” Mitobe told Our House Magazine.
By 2016, her business partner had split, and the fashion truck was struggling. That was until a client of Mitobe’s asked if she’d ever consider bringing the truck to her house to have of group of girls come over and drink wine and shop. That was the light-bulb moment Mitobe needed.
“This is where this business is going to succeed,” she said.
Since she changed focus, about 80 per cent of her business comes from private shopping parties. From April to November, Fashiontruck Canada is booked five-to-seven nights a week. And Mitobe is willing to accommodate an eager clientele by taking the truck around the region including bookings in Ottawa and Montreal. She doesn’t charge to show up, suggesting a charge could be a barrier for anyone thinking about trying something new – but she also gets very few cancellations.
Clients can book the truck to come to their home in three to four-hour blocks. Mitobe explained during a typical outing, the host will provide some food and drinks, while friends come and go from the truck to shop.
“It’s a real intimate space, so it’s great for groups of girlfriends to come in and laugh and have some fun,” she said, noting a mobile shopping option is perfect for busy moms who can’t find the time to shop. “If you’re a mom, you’re always looking for a night out or an excuse to take a break and go out and relax and laugh with your friends.”
While Mitobe believes there are some advantages to being a mobile business, it’s not as easy as it may look. The truck operates off a generator that can occasionally give out, and she’s had to learn how to change her own oil. There was also the initial cost of tens of thousands of dollars to get the truck stocked and running.
Despite the grind, when the truck shows up at a doorstep, Mitobe said the women are prepared to shop and drop some serious money. To learn more about the fashion truck, go to fashiontruckcanada.com.
Courtesy of Jeremy Deutsch, Communications Advisor