Concerns over unfair competition has Penticton city hall blocking a local entrepreneur from obtaining a mobile vending licence.
Tracey Lloyd said she had a positive response when she first approached the city two years ago with her idea about creating a mobile boutique. But after purchasing the truck, fitting it out, having it wrapped in bright pink and renaming it Chic Mobile Boutique, she returned to the city, only to be refused a mobile vendors licence.
“We have only been able to do events like the markets in Penticton and Summerland, the Dragonboat Festival … where we have to pay a fee to go to,” said Lloyd. “Our thought is, what is the difference if it is a taco or a dress, we just want the same opportunities.”
Council considered the question this week, with a staff report recommending against changing the mobile vending bylaws to accommodate this new type of mobile business.
Though the report noted there is a worldwide trend towards mobile vending of all types, it also suggested that since a mobile shop doesn’t have the same tax, licensing and operation overhead — they represent unfair competition.
Mikaley Lloyd, Tracey’s daughter, said they have done their best to avoid duplicating what is available in Penticton already.
“The majority of our products we do bring from the U.K., New York, Australia. We try to keep it different, it is product you won’t find here. We just keep it in trends, up to date and affordable,” said Mikaley, explaining that they visited local shops as they were setting up to review what was available.
After having spent $50,000 just setting the truck up, not including their stock, the Lloyds are concerned about starting to turn a profit.
“We have done birthday parties, we’ve done the market, we’ve done the Summerland market, the Dragon Boat Festival,” said Mikaley. “We are grasping at straws, any event you want us at, we will be there.”
The Lloyds also received support from the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, who sent a letter to council on their behalf.
“We want to make sure Penticton is an easy place to do business, and we also want to make sure Penticton is open minded for encouraging new ways to do business,” said Mike Magnusson, chamber president. “We want to see mobile vending permits opened up to more than food trucks, because that is who it seems to be aimed at right now.”
Council members spoke in support of changing the bylaws. Coun. Tarik Sayeed suggested that if Penticton wanted to raise its ranking again as an entrepreneurial city, after having slipped to fourth in Canada, it needed to be more proactive on new ideas like this.
He said to let the market decide whether a mobile boutique would be a success or not.
“That’s what we need in Penticton,” he said. “They are also taking a risk as well. Let the population decide what is right. If they are not going to succeed, then let them not, but at least give them the chance.”
Coun. Campbell Watt said he supported the concept as well.
“There could be potentially other vendor trucks that fit a new model that we could support,” he said. “With all due respect, if we took the wheels off and put it on the beach, we do already have a model for that. I don’t understand why we can’t make it larger.”
A limited pilot project was Coun. Max Picton’s suggestion.
“If we allow it, roll it out in a limited scope to start. Get that feedback and understanding of the impact on our community. Then we would be in a better position to make a decision on this,” said Picton.
Council voted unanimously to send the matter back to staff, and have them come forward with options for expanding mobile vending.