Coffee, hot dogs and ice cream are not the only things you can buy on the street anymore. Selling from a truck has branched out into many different genres including clothes, jewelry, gourmet food, flowers and even liquor. While brick and mortar mom-n-pop shops either shrink, turn into mega-stores or go completely digital, more people are realizing that it just may be worth going on the road and taking advantage of selling from a truck. Why pay a commercial landlord when you travel in your own office? In fact, The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently predicted rising rents due to closing retail vacancies. There is also the convenience of not needing a huge staff. Selling from a truck can save you such costs as high payroll taxes, health care, utilities, phone and insurance. It is no wonder more businesses are sprouting up curbside.
For decades, many trades have ventured into the asphalt business sector hawking their wares via car, truck, bus or buggy and have been somewhat of an American staple throughout history. There was the traveling blacksmith, blade sharpener, farmer, salesman and even dentist that rolled right up to a residential front door or parked on a town or city corner to do business. So the resurgence of selling from a truck is not far off from the days of these nomadic entrepreneurs. One such example of a modern door to door salesman selling from a truck is the shady case. In this instance, an American neighborhood was visited by an eighteen wheeler roving their streets, knocking on their doors and offering to sell prime furniture right out of a truck. Although residents were more spooked than willing, it was a display of how selling from a truck has begun to enter our mainstream. Dealing in a shady scheme such as this is the low end of what this industry has emerged into; many others have become licensed to do legitimate business from their vehicle with customers to boot.
Selling from a truck can be done with class, innovation and most of all, the ability to raise public intrigue to actually get a customer to step in and shell out cash. Social media has eliminated the need for expensive advertising and has instead offered the ability for potential customers to track a roving business via Twitter, Facebook or any other digital application available. Here are a few scenarios of those that have successful packaged their product into a four wheel mom-n-pop operation:
The Trunk – Hailing out of Nashville, Tennessee, Abigail Franklin and Kyah Hillis have created a mobile fashion unit called The Trunk. By combining their finances they were able to split the trucks interior to feature each of their saleable items. With only $25,000 to start up (all it took was purchasing an old Snap-on-Tools truck and retrofitting the inside), Franklin describes her very practical business model, “We can bring our products to you instead of waiting for you to come to us.” Places they open shop include restaurants, concerts and ball game parking lots.
Le Fashion – Rolling around Los Angeles is another wheeled clothing boutique called the Le Fashion Truck. This outfit gives an informal study result of rent comparison. They claim that their monthly outlay of insurance, generator, storage fees and cleaning costs are about fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars, which is a far cry from monthly retail space rent which can start at about seven thousand dollars [in Los Angeles].
Hairmobile – Selling from a truck has caught the eye of several investors including Michael Gomez who is in the planning stages of a line of hair salon mobiles. It would be a franchise business model offering a truck business for under two hundred thousand dollars that is ready to park, pluck and cut curbside walking traffic. Gomez foresees two thousand hairmobiles, nationwide, within the next ten years stating that, “Mobile sites are pretty much the way of the future to decrease overhead and increase profit for a small-business owner.”
Trend or Trade?
As small businesses emerge in the back of trucks, many claim it as a practical choice to save excessive overhead cost as well as maybe use as a springboard into storefront space. A few studies have compared the results to determine if it is a universal business shift or if it is a trend that will soon dissipate. Small Business Labs investigates geographic expansion and possible over-saturation. Creating a proper marketing analysis is recommended as more cities are offering such things as the Outdoor Vendors Handbook which guides beginners into the world of four wheel dealing. There is even an Idiots Guide page for those looking to drive their work to work.
Selling from a truck is not the perfect business model as many challenges still need to be met. Smart Money looks at ten pitfalls that could get in the way of getting on the road. However, as mom-n-pop shops absorb into corporate conglomerates, many people continue to stroll up to the many truck choices idling on their corners and parking lots across the U.S.