As a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, Ashley Ross knew that a product she first saw in Great Britain could be a big hit in her hometown.
“I’d see people walking around in their high heels, then take them off when they got uncomfortable,” said Ross, 27. “Going barefoot isn’t a great option.”
But for club-hoppers on the go, a comfortable flat shoe is.
Her company, Rollasole, makes purchasing comfortable flats as easy as buying a soft drink because they’re available in vending machines across the city.
Ross, director of operations for Rollasole USA, first thought she was headed for a career in real estate. She studied business administration at the University of Phoenix and after seeing the shoes on her overseas trip decided to make contact with the company in 2011 to try to develop a distribution agreement.
After securing the deal, it wasn’t until late 2013 that the product took off, thanks primarily to MGM Resorts International agreeing to sell the shoes in several of its retail outlets in its Las Vegas resorts.
Once that happened, other retailers picked them up. The shoes can be purchased in stores at Wynn Las Vegas and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas as well.
Rollasole shoes also are provided in guest rooms at Caesars Palace’s boutique Nobu Hotel.
Ross was intrigued with the prospect of locating Rollasole vending machines in locations near nightclubs.
“The hardest part was working with companies to place machines in malls and near the clubs,” she said. “It just took persistence.”
Ross’ company has two vending machines at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood; two at the Grand Canal Shoppes, one near Tao at The Venetian; two at the Fashion Show mall, including a large outdoor machine that can stock up to 200 pairs of shoes; and one near the Body English nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel.
The smaller vending machines stock 70 pairs and it isn’t uncommon for machines to sell out, depending on what’s happening in the city that week. She services her machines once a week after buying inventory from her British supplier.
Ross has 13 machines with some in Southern California, but she’s considering bringing those to Las Vegas because of the potential for sales outside nightclubs.
Ross takes another big step in the marketing process this week when she’ll present Rollasole at the Men’s Apparel Guild in California MAGIC Marketplace fashion trade show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It will be her first time pitching the product to prospective buyers at the massive show expected to attract more than 80,000 people.
The shoes come in a variety of sizes and colors in the retail outlets, with a more limited selection from the vending machines.
The vended shoes come in small plastic cylinders and with polyurethane soles are rolled up in the tube. Each pair comes with a pouch to carry the heels they replace.
The vending machines have simple transaction instructions and a customer can choose black or one other color, whatever is stocked in the machine at the time. Black is the most popular option, but the shoes come in gold, silver, a variety of colors, a leopard print and stripes.
Shoes come in four sizes, small (sizes 5-6) medium (7-8), large (9-10) and extra large (11-12).
Vending machines will take transactions by cash or credit card. Most of those are a basic style that sells for $20, but other more elaborate styles sell for $40 in stores.
Ross has taken to social media to publicize Rollasole with sites on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, using the Rollasole USA brand.
Ross also has affiliations with the Women’s Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas and with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at email@example.com or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.