Flip Flop Shops treads its way into McCarran

Travelers coming into or leaving Las Vegas on Delta or Hawaiian airlines have another reason to stop and shop at McCarran International Airport.

Flip Flop Shops, a retail chain devoted to carrying multiple brands and styles of flip-flops and sandals, opened Tuesday in the D gates next to D-32.

Expect flip-flops from names such as Sanük, OluKai, Quiksilver, Roxy, Reef, Cobian and Cushe.

Ayala Flip Flop Shops LLC owns the 600-square-foot store.

Co-owner David Ayala also owns locations of Moe’s Southwest Grill, Freshëns, icandy, Tentation, red, Seattle’s Best Coffee and The Candy Shop at McCarran and the Denver International Airport. Let’s just say this isn’t his first rodeo.

About 25 years ago, he started out with hotel-based candy stores.

“As we grew, we had an opportunity to get into the airport and it became our area of expertise,” Ayala said. “It’s been a fantastic environment. We know the traveling customer, which is different than other customers.”

Ayala said travelers tend to be impulse buyers interested in the speed of service, and flip-flops are a fast buy. Prices for one pair of flip-flops at the new store range from $18 to $160.

Already, there are two Flip Flop Shops locations in Las Vegas, at Mandalay Bay and the Fashion Show mall that consistently perform in the top five shops each week of Flip Flop Shops’ 60-plus locations. Future growth plans for the company include two additional Vegas franchise shops.

Scott Santy opened the Mandalay Bay store in June 2009.

“We’re having a little bit of a down year,” he said.

The location’s business is down about 10 percent from 2011, and Santy thinks a couple of factors are contributing.

One, “The Lion King” closed in 2012 to make way for the coming Michael Jackson show, leaving the main showroom, which is nearest to Mandalay Place, empty.

“(‘The Lion King’) really drew a lot of people down this end of the Strip,” Santy said.

Santy also said sales are down because it’s an election year.

“People are holding back on what they used to spend,” Santy said. “They want to see what’s going to happen.”

Overall, though, Santy said the store still does well because many people haven’t an entire shop devoted to flip- flops and sandals.

But what do these people buy once they wander in to Santy’s store?

“Vegas is definitely an in-your-face city,” he said. “Women like the blingy sandals and for guys it’s more about comfort.”

Today, Flip Flop Shops has more than 60 locations operating throughout the United States, Canada, Guam and the Caribbean, with more than 100 stores in development. The company is projecting 236 locations to be open or in development throughout select markets by the end of 2013.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at or 702-380-4588.

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