5 Industries That Are Going Mobile

Taking a cue from food trucks, mobile businesses — especially these — are bringing goods and services to the consumer.
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Industries from women's retail to grooming businesses are going mobile to better cater to customers. (Photo: Lynn Friedman/Flickr)

A food truck pulls up right outside your office building at exactly the moment you’re in need of a hot lunch. What could be more perfect? Now other industries are catching on to the beauty of mobile.

Here are five industries in particular that are embracing life on wheels for its low overhead, flexibility and reach.

Women’s fashion

Stacey Jischke-Steffe

“If you want to work only on weekends or a couple evenings, you have that flexibility to open your mobile shop at the time that works with your schedule.” -Stacey Jischke-Steffe (Photo: Stacey Jischke-Steffe)

According to Stacey Jischke-Steffe, president of the American Mobile Retail Association (AMRA), trucks selling everything from sports paraphernalia to handmade soaps and home decor have been popping up in cities nationwide. But the biggest player in the mobile retail market, she said, is women’s fashion.

Fashion was how Jischke-Steffe got her own start in the industry. She had a small online store that sold vintage apparel and accessories, and she rented booths at local festivals and farmers markets. “It went really well, but the labor behind it was so intense,” she said.

After witnessing the success of food trucks around Los Angeles, she decided to launch Le Fashion Truck. The mobile boutique gave her a permanent space for her business while letting her go almost anywhere, including to local events.

“The store was my booth, and I didn’t have to do all that setting up and labor work behind it,” she said. “I just loved the whole culture of it.”

Mobile retail really took off first on the West Coast, Jischke-Steffe said, but it quickly expanded nationwide. AMRA, which started with six LA-based retailers, now has a national presence of more than 100 members, 84 percent of which are women’s clothing boutiques.

The big attraction for small business owners is the low start-up costs and schedule flexibility, said Jischke-Steffe. “Let’s say you want to start a store on wheels but can’t quit your full-time job. If you want to work only on weekends or a couple evenings, you have that flexibility to open your mobile shop at the time that works with your schedule.”

Grooming businesses

Mobile pet grooming has been a thing for years. Now humans in need of a trim or polish are starting to get equal treatment.

“Mobile salons and barbershops are really starting to pick up,” said Jischke-Steffe. “I’ve actually talked to four different mobile salons and barbershops just last week alone.” She’s also seen a number of nail salons hitting the streets with mobile mani-pedi stations.

Repair businesses

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Mobile repair shops are equipped with parts and accessories and will come to your home or office to fix your bike. (Photo: Thomas Andreas/Shutterstock)

Your bike’s broken. Rather than schlepping to the bike repair shop to get it fixed, you can have a mobile shop come to your home or office to fix it so you can get back on the bike sooner. That’s the idea behind mobile bike repair franchises like Velofix. Trucks are stocked with parts and accessories. You can even book them to support your corporate bike event.

Similarly, mobile auto repair shops will bring a mechanic to your house — which is especially helpful when your car won’t start. Many glass repair and mobile oil change businesses are also willing to meet customers on location to service their vehicles.

Entertainment businesses

Food trucks have started snagging invitations to weddings as caterers-on-wheels. And now consumers are bring in mobile businesses for their entertainment, too.

Mobile video game theatres are providing high-def, exciting experiences to young gamers, for instance. And trailers like West Texas Glam, which offers princess, rockstar and diva themed parties for up to a dozen guests (more for an extra fee), are providing a party on wheels.

E-commerce retailers

Mobile retail works particularly well for e-commerce vendors looking to expand their reach. Online-only retailers, such as lingerie brand True&Co, have started leveraging trucks for branding as well as letting customers handle the products in person to decrease the risk of buying online.

Jischke-Steffe said AMRA worked with True&Co to create a “try-on truck” that went on a tour across California to let customers try on the products before ordering online.

“For online vendors, that’s really attractive because their customers are able to come and feel their product in person, but they don’t need to actually open up a physical location or take on the task of opening a pop-up. It’s so much easier to be mobile.”

The lower overhead costs of a mobile business is a big contributing factor to the trend’s growing popularity, said Jischke-Steffe. “In the last year, I’ve heard from a lot of people that are closing their brick-and-mortar shops and going strictly mobile because the overhead is so high,” she said. “Not that there’s no overhead in a mobile retail business, but it’s usually lower than that of a brick-and-mortar location.”

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