Fashion Trucks Latest Trend for Mobile Shopping
Jul 31, 2017 08:28PM
● By Shari Berg
When online shopping became a trend, consumers rallied behind the concept of being able to purchase everything from shoes to big screen televisions from the convenience of their homes. Online giants like Amazon and eBay continue to implement new features designed to hook and reel in consumers, keeping them coming back for more.
The unfortunate downside to the growing preference of consumers to shop online is that it is hurting a lot of traditional retail stores, even putting a few out of business. Just in the Pittsburgh area alone, consumers in some areas have lost access to long-time retailers Sears, Kmart and now Macy’s. The National Retail Federation has warned of the negative impact of online shopping on traditional retailers for years, urging them to find new and innovative ways to recreate themselves.
The fashion industry in the Pittsburgh region is responding, jumping on a trend that first started on the West Coast in 2010—fashion trucks. These retail stores on wheels are popping up all over the ‘burgh, carrying with them unique fashion trends and locally designed and handcrafted items.
Marissa Zimmerman, owner of The Vintage Valet, is a veteran fashion truck owner/operator in the Pittsburgh area. She started working on her idea for a fashion truck business in 2012 after being inspired by an e-commerce class that required her to combine her hobby (fashion) with her major (business) to create a unique business model.
“That was the defining moment for me,” said Zimmerman, who has spent the last 16 years in the retail industry because of her love of fashion. “When there’s something that you just can’t stop thinking about, you know you’re meant to do it.”
It took Zimmerman nearly a year to take her idea from a concept on paper to a mobile marketplace. What she ended up with was a service that targets women looking for trendy, stylish and vintage-style clothing who enjoy setting their own fashion trends. “I look at current and future trends when I’m searching for items, and I keep a vintage feel in mind that fits with those trends,” she said. “I find pieces that have a vintage look and feel to them.”
Zimmerman prides herself on being able to provide a limited number of each piece she sells, which helps to avoid the “she’s wearing the same thing I’m wearing” issue that can happen when women purchase popular, mass-produced items from retailers or designers. “People want something they can’t find anywhere else. I maybe get six of any item, so once it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said.
Some of the pieces she sells, including hand-made jewelry, are repurposed from other pieces she’s found when on the hunt for unique items.
Her one-of-a-kind items are housed in a 10’ x 6’ hot pink truck that can be seen in a variety of places around town. Every Friday through Sept. 8, fashionistas can find her at Frick Park’s Summer Fridays event between 5-8 p.m. She will also be participating in the pop-up fashion market at Market Square, happening the second Monday of each month through September, and Northland Library’s fashion truck event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 19.
Another fashion truck on the local scene is Magnolia on Main, owned and operated by Bernie Rupcich and Kim DiMarco. Both women have previous experience in the retail and fashion industries. Rupcich most recently worked as a district merchant for Macy’s Pittsburgh region, an experience that lent itself well to operating a fashion truck.
Rupcich said that she decided to try her hand at the mobile boutique business after seeing how much the retail market has changed in western Pennsylvania in the last couple of years. “Retail is really changing in Pittsburgh, and I think we can all see that with the departure of some of the Macy’s main locations, including in downtown Pittsburgh,” she said. “I am seeing a resurgence of specialty stores in communities that are thriving, and fashion trucks fit into that trend.”
Since launching in March 2016, Magnolia on Main has been well received by the community. Their products are designed for women in the 30-plus age group and are meant for casual wear. Women who need some extra assistance in putting together a look also can get some styling assistance from DiMarco. “They enjoy that it’s different, and they enjoy the fashion we’re bringing to them,” she said.
Roughly 80 percent of the items found inside their truck are classified as ready-to-wear, with the remaining 20 percent consisting of handcrafted jewelry and smaller home décor items such as accent pillows. Their Pittsburgh 412 pillows, handcrafted by S&J Decorative Finishes in Greensburg, are among their best-selling products. Customers also rave about the eco-friendly fabric used in the clothing at Magnolia on Main, said Rupcich, adding that another popular seller is Kut from the Kloth jeans, which are designed to fit a variety of shapes and sizes.
Magnolia on Main will be at a number of events over the next couple of months, including Summer Fridays at the Frick. The first Saturday of every month, the truck can be found at Coffee Buddha in Perrysville, which Rupcich said has been very supportive of her business since it launched. She added, “The best way to find us day-to-day is to stop by our website or our Facebook page; I post our location every time we’re out.
To find a fashion truck near you, visit www.findafashiontruck.com/location/pennsylvania.