Tracey and Mikaley Lloyd were hoping to hear some good news from city council this week as members considered approving an expansion to the mobile vendor program to include retail trucks, like their Chic Boutique.
“If they don’t, I will cry,” said Mikaley prior to the meeting.
Mikaley and her mother Tracey created Chic Boutique last year, renovating a Fed-Ex truck into a mobile clothing and accessory store. But despite initial interest from the city, they were turned down when they applied for a mobile vendor licence because their concept didn’t fit under the city’s current mobile vendor strategy.
Council unanimously approved a one-year, pilot program permitting a maximum of two retail vendors like Chic Boutique to operate in the city, though not in the high-traffic mobile vendor locations in the downtown.
Mikaley said they had no desire to operate on Main or Front streets, in competition with the existing stores.
“Those are ones we wanted to avoid altogether,” said Mikaley, acknowledging the existing businesses established there. Tracey questioned not being able to use the high-traffic area at the foot of Winnipeg Street.
“There are no clothing stores anywhere in that area,” said Tracey.
Staff consulted with both the Downtown Penticton Association and the Chamber of Commerce while developing the pilot project. After consulting their members, the chamber had four reccomendations including that the pilot project be limited to a year to measure results and the effect on other local businesses.
The chamber also wanted to see an education compenent to the bylaw, to alleviate myths and concerns.
The DPA said they wouldn’t have an issue with mobile vendors in other areas of the city, but did not want to see them operating in the downtown core. In contrast, the majority of chamber respondents said they didn’t have a concern about distance from the mobile vendors (33 per cent) or wanted to see them at least two blocks away from competition (33 per cent).
The chamber survey also showed a 100 per cent lack of interest by members on adding mobile vending to their existing business. Comments ranged from it not being the right market to “They have to pack in and out of locations … I get to show up to my heated shop.”
“In smaller cities, the shopping population would not be large enough to be shared between mobile trucks and retail shops already in place,” reads the DPA response, which also says mobile trucks have less of an investment in the city, while brick and mortar businesses had a vested interest in building a stronger and vibrant downtown.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit questioned whether merchants would object to mobile vendors operating in the downtown after stores were closed, an idea that was seized on by some councillors and opposed by others.
Coun. Judy Sentes said she didn’t approve of the idea when it was first proposed in the fall.
“I don’t see mobile retail vending trucks in the same category as our food vendors, it’s apples and oranges,” said Sentes. “I do enjoy them being part of the market, I think that is where they are appropriate.”
Sentes approved of the pilot project, highlighting the downtown core exclusion, but disapproved of allowing them into the downtown after hours.
“The motion as it stands is adequate,” she said, explaining that the DPA hadn’t been consulted on the extension.
Coun. Andre Martin agreed there should be consultation, but the decision needed to be made at council, and there was no reason for council to delay endorsing the investigation as part of the pilot project.
“Why wouldn’t we bring that forward now and give them the best chance for success?” asked Coun. Campbell Watt. “I would like to get their input without closing the door for a full year.”
“Let’s give them the best opportunity to succeed, so we can see if this works or not.”
A motion approving the pilot passed unanimously but a second motion by Coun. Tarik Sayeed to offer extended hours failed. Watt modified the motion to ask staff to investigate offering extended hours, including the downtown core, which council passed.