Five companies get OK for retail space at McCarran's Terminal 3

Even after he had returned to his office with an approval in hand, Bill Berdie still expected something to go wrong with his company's attempt to win a retail concession at McCarran International Airport.

He expected something tougher than the approximately 20 minutes it took the Clark County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday vote in favor of bids by Transaction Holdings and four other companies for the six retail spaces set aside for Las Vegas companies in McCarran's $2.4-billion Terminal 3.

"I'm still surprised," said Berdie, chief operating officer for Transaction Holdings. "It always seems that when you have these contracts, they go to the big guys and not the locals."

Because an airport location has the image of guaranteed profits, with a captive market of about 40 million people a year, heavy lobbying has often been part of the process. Berdie worried that as a relatively small company, Transaction Holdings could not afford high-priced attorneys to ensure that the recommendation by McCarran's evaluation panel would hold up.

But airport retailing has taken its lumps in the past three years as airline traffic has declined. Some locations have closed, while airport management has loosened minimum rent requirements as a financial lifeline to others that have seen sales declines.

Transaction won spot for a wall unit to sell decorative boxes and other small gifts, which Berdie estimates will cost about $100,000 to build. The three-year-old company primarily sells to casinos as a wholesaler, but branched into retail about one year ago.

Front Row Sports, which has six outlets in Las Vegas, was granted two spots in Terminal 3 to sell logoed athletic apparel. Vegas SpecialTees, a T-shirt shop, and Marshall Retail Group, which will sell souvenirs under the Welcome Las Vegas banner, each got one location. All will open with Terminal 3's ribbon cutting in mid-2012.

Epicure Group International was the only bidder for the space in the baggage claim area. Because neighboring shops leased to Hudson News & Gift and food service company HMS Host will not open with the terminal, Epicure will also not have a deadline for its cigars and gifts shop.

Clark County Aviation Department director Randall Walker said that baggage claim is generally the slowest sales spot in the airport.

Because Terminal 3 will not open at full capacity, airport management decided not to make them open to potentially weak business.

All told, 31 companies sent representatives to an information meeting last October and 16 submitted formal bids the following month.

Host and Hudson already were awarded master leases for much of the rest of Terminal 3. Once the spots set aside for two more national retailers -- recruiting and selection are still under way -- the leasing of Terminal 3 will be complete.

Walker said that the eight domestic gates at Terminal 3 would go to one of the McCarran's major carriers, although he did not disclose which one. With Southwest having all of Concourse C, that leaves United and Continental, now under common ownership and soon to merge completely, or Delta. Both carry about 4 million passengers a year.

The other six Terminal 3 gates at configured for international traffic.

Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at or 702-387-5290.