The shopping truck trend: Commercial Real Estate on Wheels

screen-shot-2013-10-23-at-124907-pm-304Undoubtedly, you have noticed the ubiquitous food trucks that have seemingly taken over parts of Nashville. There is even a food truck park, Wanderland Urban Food Park, where the food trucks can gather around the city.

This trend is certainly not unique to Nashville. Food trucks and food truck parks have been popping up at a surprising rate around the country. Food trucks provide a variety of food options for business or entertainment districts that otherwise would only be served by the restaurants located in brick-and-mortar buildings in that area.

What you may not have noticed around Nashville just yet are the fashion trucks that have started making their debuts around town. Fashion trucks, like food trucks, are simply trucks that bring their merchandise to their customers at their customers’ chosen location or at a designated location that is convenient for customers. The backs of these trucks have been renovated so that they are comparable to boutiques located in traditional shopping center centers. However, the fashion trucks are substantially less expensive than traditional real estate and have the ability to change location at any time to accommodate customers.

A truck called The Trunk claims to be Nashville’s first fashion truck. Other fashion trucks currently operating in Nashville include the K. McCarthy Fashion Truck, which just began operating last month, and the Little White Fashion Truck, which also has operations in Baltimore/Annapolis, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania, and Virginia. So far, the fashion trucks seem primarily focused on women’s fashions (special thank you to my wife for making me aware of this trend), but it seems likely that other retail areas may follow suit if the fashion trucks have success similar to the food trucks’ success. (For more on fashion trucks, check out this Business Journal article from October 2012.)

There has been much debate in commercial real estate circles over the past few years about the effects of Internet commerce on traditional brick-and-mortar retail locations, but relatively little about trucks at this point. How much impact will retail trucks have, and what does the entrance of retail trucks on the shopping scene say about the continued evolution of the retail experience?

My bet is the impact will not be great, but will simply provide another alternative for shopping. Indeed, it seems likely that the truck trend may work as an effective complement to traditional, brick-and-mortar retail locations and that we may see boutiques with traditional retail locations adding a mobile boutique to their sales arsenal. Without a doubt, having the ability to go to one’s customers or to change location would make shopping more convenient and potentially broaden the scope of one’s marketing and customer base. It will be interesting to see how the public and the city reacts to this trend if it continues.

This post was first published by the Nashville Business Journal on October 23, 2013.  To read more commercial real estate articles by Walt Burton at the Nashville Business Journal, click here>

Updated November 3, 2013:

After the above post was published in the Nashville Business Journal, Abby Franklin, the owner of The Trunk, reached out to me with the following e-mail:

Hi Walt,

Thanks for writing the great article about the shopping truck trend.

If you decide to follow up I would love to give you more information for your article.

Fashion trucks often give the owners the opportunity to build a brand and the capital they need to start a brick and mortar. I have done this as well as many other trucks around the country.

Two brick and mortars in Nashville, Blush and Two Old Hippies, have opened trucks this year.

When I started my truck two years ago there was one other mobile retail business in the area, The Honeybean wagon. Now there are at least eight trucks and campers added to the list. I am the first fashion truck, not the first mobile boutique in Nashville.

One last note. My truck sells mens clothes as does Moto Moda.

Thanks for helping spread the mobile retail word.


Abigail L. Franklin

From a commercial real estate standpoint, Abby’s note confirms my suspicions that fashion trucks are a compliment to brick and mortar retail more than a replacement.  Retail will continue to evolve as creative entrepreneurs like Abby continue to dream of new ways to connect with consumers.