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August 30, 2013

Fashion trucks take style

Filed under: LED Work Lights — Tags: , — solaroutdoorlight @ 7:59 am

Fresh from unveiling the new Hobo International accessories truck, Koren Ray is ready to take her fashion show on the road.

In a couple of weeks, the owner of the Annapolis, Md.-based firm plans to cruise through the Mid-Atlantic to her most loyal retailers, using the truck as a mobile showroom. Inside, she displays handbags and leather accessories amid the same rustic, contemporary decor of her flagship store — right down to the live-edge wood shelving and lit Plexiglas walls. Eventually, she will use the truck to sell merchandise from sites such as festivals and the curbside of college campuses.

And she’s just one of the latest entrepreneurs to study and pursue the mobile fashion movement.

“We’ve watched closely. It seemed like such a great fit for the brand,We have a great selection of blown glass backyard solar landscape lights and solar garden light.” said Ray, who until now had focused on selling the 22-year-old company’s products online and through department stores and boutiques.

Following the same road as the food truck craze, fashion trucks are attracting a variety of entrepreneurs who are going mobile to sell apparel. They say they like bringing merchandise directly to their customers and not being tied down by store leases.

Within the past year, at least eight trucks have started operating in Maryland alone. Two of them, including Ray’s vehicle, hit the road this month. Nationally, the handful of trucks that existed two years ago has exploded to about 300, according to the American Mobile Retail Association.

“I predict that we will have a lot more retail trucks in the next year,” said Stacey Steffe, president of the American Mobile Retail Association and an entrepreneur who opened her business, Le Truck, in Los Angeles when she knew of only two other fashion trucks in the nation. This past year, her organization has consulted with 200 potential truck owners.

Sally M. DiMarco, associate professor and fashion-design program coordinator in the School of Design at Stevenson University, has seen the trend balloon the past year.

For the mobile business model to work, prices must be low enough to attract a younger audience, according to DiMarco.How does a solar charger work and where would you use a solar charger? Most trucks offer apparel priced less than $100.

“I would be a little leery to put designer fashion out there,” said DiMarco. “People don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes. With high-end clothing, you see an older population. I don’t think they would like to go to the trucks.”

Shelley Sarmiento, owner of Little White Fashion Truck, considers herself a “dinosaur” in the burgeoning field. This week, she celebrated her one-year anniversary in the business. In that short time, she has expanded to three trucks — she just purchased a fourth — and operates in Maryland, Northern Virginia and Nashville, Tenn.

The Severna Park, Md., resident, formerly a co-owner of White House Black Market, said the secret to her success is keeping costs low on her stock of casual, trendy apparel and jewelry.

“Nothing is over $79 in the truck,” said Sarmiento, who also works as a professor of fashion business at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. “As long as I stick to my brand, I will be successful. This will work for us very well.”

Alexa Kunowsky, a Severna Park resident who attends Vanderbilt University, shops at Little White Fashion Truck in Nashville and when she’s home in Maryland.

“It’s fun to be able to go in there,” she said. “(The owner’s) awesome with all the customers. She’s really good at piecing outfits together. I like going in there for her input. … It’s also really cool that there is a truck near Severna Park, which is near my house. I really like the whole concept.”

The pricing works for Kunowsky, who said she’s purchased staples for her own wardrobe and Christmas gifts for her mother.

“It’s all really affordable, which is the best part about it,” Kunowsky said.

Like many other fashion and food trucks, Sarmiento’s company uses social media to connect with customers and inform them of the truck’s location on a given day. Sarmiento’s truck has a mobile application that alerts customers on Facebook when the truck is within 10 miles.

“It will even give you directions to us,” she said.

Startup costs for a fashion truck can range from $10,000 to $150,The world’s largest independent online retailer for solar lighting, street lights & outdoor lighting fixtures.000, according to owners. By comparison, Sarmiento said, “You’d be hard-pressed to open a brick-and-mortar store for less than $200,000.”

She said a retail boutique would typically pay rent ranging from $30,000 to $80,000 annually, plus utilities and other costs. That’s considerably more than a truck owner would pay for permits, fuel, insurance and maintenance.

She spent $35,000 to get her first fashion truck on the road a year ago. That truck paid for itself within 10 weeks, she said. But she spent more on her second and third trucks, both of which cost upwards of $60,000.

“Now that I have a little more cash flow, I’m investing in a better truck,” Sarmiento said of her vehicles, which are old FedEx and bread trucks. Her trucks each have hardwood floors, a dressing room and a generator that allows for lighting, air conditioning and heat.

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June 26, 2013

Toyota Rolls Out New Corolla

Filed under: LED Lamp — Tags: — solaroutdoorlight @ 3:30 am

I had a girlfriend in college who had a 1970 Toyota Corolla. Back in the day the boxy Japanese compact was an oddity, sort of like what early buyers of Hyundai and Kia vehicles experienced when they drove South Korean cars in the early 1990s.

But what that light green Toyota lacked in style it more than made up in reliability and fuel efficiency at a time when Detroit built such compact clunkers as the Ford Pinto, Chevrolet Vega, and American Motors’ Gremlin and Pacer.

That first in the United States Corolla introduced in 1968 was nearly indestructible. My brother married a woman who drove a 1969 model for 15 years. The other car of choice for college students of that era was the rear-engine Volkswagen Beetle. I married a woman who drove a ’71 VW Super Beetle nicknamed “Norton” for 17 years and a college student drove it away when we finally parted with it.

My wife still loves her 14-year-old Corolla and so do many other loyal Corolla owners. Toyota has sold nearly 40 million Corollas worldwide since 1966, 1.2 million last year.

The world’s largest automaker recently took the wraps off the 11th generation Corolla, an all-new model of the front-wheel drive compact with design flashes from the Corolla Furia Concept that made the rounds at auto shows from Detroit to California.

In a bid to break its conservative vanilla design mold, the all-new 2014 Corolla has some cues from the top competitors in the segment, sporting a bold front fascia reminiscent of the Mazda3 and an exterior and instrument cluster evoking the Honda Civic.

Style and Corolla have been polar opposites for decades, but I was impressed with the practically of the vehicle when we rented a 2013 Corolla on vacation last winter, a vehicle some auto critics dubbed an “automotive appliance.”

The last few generations of the Corolla probably helped inspire the bumper sticker: “My car is a [picture of a toaster],” but the volume seller, second in sales to the Camry, has been Toyota’s bread and butter. Safe, good mileage and no breakdowns has been a winning formula.

For 2014, Toyota ups the ante with more size and style. The front-wheel drive Corolla will come in four trim levels in showrooms this fall — L, LE, S and a new LE Eco version. The wheel-base has been stretched by 3.9 inches and the car is lower and wider.

LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail-lamps are standard and the sporty Corolla S adds more accents along with the 132-horsepower version of the 1.8-liter, VVT-I four-cylinder engine. The LE Eco engine boosts power to 140-horsepower and has continuously variable valve timing to improve fuel economy to 40 mpg on the highway.

The Corolla L and Corolla S offer a four-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission while the other models come with a new continuously variable “intelligent shift” automatic.

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