Views / Toronto / Mom and Pop Shops

Fashion Truck Canada makes style mobile

When Ashley Barber and her co-founder Emily Dobbie wanted to launch a fashion business, they decided to ditch the traditional brick-and-mortar stores for a boutique endeavour with some real drive.

The fashion mavens thought outside of the box when they decided to purchase a commercial truck and outfit it with a change room, cash register and shelves. With hard work, the vehicle soon became a high-end store called Fashion Truck Canada.

Their business model is akin to the food truck industry, except instead of fast food, consumers can pick out fast fashion in short amount of time at a convenient location.

“The best thing about having a fashion truck is just owning your own business,” Barber says, “the perk to this is you get to travel around and meet tons of different people.”

Now style is on the move across Toronto where instead of waiting for consumers to come to them, they sell fashionable dresses, jeans, shoes and everything in between to the masses in local parks or even parking lots.

They found inspiration for their business in the many successful mobile boutiques found in the U.S. and decided to import the idea north of the border. In the process they became one of the first Canadian companies to operate a fashion truck.

“We saw it take off in New York and Los Angeles and decided to bring it to Canada,” says Barber as she folds a pair of Free The People jeans. “This,” she says pointing to the spacious truck around her, “gives us freedom and lets us go wherever we want.”

With their eye to the future, the duo's company also focuses on cashless payment options and have partnered with Mastercard to make it possible. Customers who use Mastercard to pay for purchases on the fashion truck also receive an exclusive 20 per cent discount.

Despite the glamour of it all, running a mobile business comes with a unique set of challenges, which include finding a place to set up shop, albeit temporarily, in the city.

“The downside, and probably our biggest challenge so far is our parking,” Babar confesses. “We can’t be on city property, we have to be on private property so it’s sourcing out private parking areas ... networking with people who want to participate in your business.”

No fixed address also means Barber and her team have to be innovative when it comes to marketing.

Aside from word-of-mouth, attracting new customers can be difficult. To deal with this challenge, the team promote their address for the day, special deals and other pertinent information across multiple social platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“Our biggest draw is definitely through social media,” Barber says.

As for the future of the mobile biz, the duo are hoping to eventually bring their store-on-wheels to other areas outside the city. But, for now they’re content with serving the fashion needs of Torontonians.

“People really like it and we’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.”

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