Growing up, Nathan Fleischmann was the kind of kid that played “fast food drive-through” out of his bedroom window with his sister. Today, at age 30, the Missouri native is no longer just role-playing the part of an entrepreneur. He now plans to open a similar sort of drive-through venture — selling shoes.
Throughout the U.S., long lunchtime lines on urban sidewalks have become no surprise with an emergence of trendy food trucks. But a steady stream of entrepreneurs around the country are now taking their retail businesses on the road. Fleischmann, of Columbia, Mo., wants to catch that wave with his concept for a mobile shoe store. Somewhat like a food truck, Fleischmann’s is a shoe store on wheels that travels to high-traffic areas and situations where people may want to buy footwear conveniently: think a 5K race, a football game or a college campus.
“We’re becoming a nation of ‘fast-casual,’” Fleischmann told Mashable. “Why not just make it as convenient to shop for shoes as it is to grab some food to go?”
His concept, branded as “Stadium Shoes,“ will focus on classic canvas shoes, casual athletic shoes and fashion lace-ups. It will also cater to particular situations. For example, Fleischmann might have flip-flops in stock for sale on a college campus before spring break. Or he might park his truck at a parking lot near a hospital during the hospital staff’s shift change: “They don’t have time to go to the mall. They’ve got to go pick up a son or a daughter or make food for their family.”
To put his Stadium Shoes company into action, Fleischmann estimates he’ll need a bit over $13,500, but he believes that 52% of that cost will go toward buying the actual truck (a used box truck or step van, he says). So Fleischmann did what many creative entrepreneurs do these days: he turned to the Kickstarter community. With just a few days left to go, his Kickstarter campaign had already surpassed its $6,500 goal, reaching over $6,850 by Monday afternoon.
Currently a marketing and communications professional by day, Fleischmann envisions that he’ll convert the truck he buys into a “boutique-styled environment,” complete with laminate wood floors, lighting, speakers, shelving and a small bench for trying on shoes. His initial plan is to slowly start selling in Columbia and across the mid-Missouri region, then possibly branch out to Kansas City and St. Louis. Fleischmann says he may eventually take the truck to various college towns in the South throughout football season.
The shoe truck concept is not entirely new but is still in its infancy. Across the country from Los Angeles (BNIB) to Austin (Bootleg Airstream) to Boston (Green Street Vault), entrepreneurs are trying out this model. It’s interesting to note that the now highly-successful Nike co-founder Phil Knight once sold shoes out of the back of his green Plymouth Valiant. Today, Knight’s company has grown into a worldwide powerhouse: In fiscal 2012, Nike, Inc. raked in more than $24 billion in global revenue.
Despite entering a space with growing online competitors, like Zappos.com, Fleischmann believes his retail truck model will provide a blended balance of the brick-and-mortar store and online shopping.
“I think the truck, from a service side, is a great solution to bridging this gap between your traditional shoe store and your purely online store,” he said. “You’re still going to have the ability to get a product instantly. It’s going to be somewhat self-service. And … you’re still going to be able to touch and feel and try on the shoe.”
What do you think about this concept? Would you buy shoes from a truck? Let us know in the comments.