Sandal shop flips across the border

Torontonians will soon have a new destination for summer footwear.

U.S.-based chain Flip Flop Shop is beginning to expand across Canada. A B.C.-based franchisee has signed an agreement to open about 30 of the stores in Canada over the next decade.

Locations are already operating in Vancouver, Kelowna and Edmonton, and five more are slated to open in the next year, including two Toronto stores.

Flojos Catalina Women's Sandal, $28.50

As the name suggests, Flip Flop Shop specializes in sandals and flip flops. The stores carry trendy styles from such brands as Roxy, Quicksilver, Vans and Flojos.

The niche concept has been popular south of the border. Since launching in 2004, the chain has grown to almost 40 stores, and another 60 locations are in development.

In U.S. markets like Florida, California and Hawaii, I can see how there’s year-round demand for the open-toe offerings of this retail chain. Thanks to the warm climate in these states, sandals are a wardrobe staple every season of the year.

On this side of the border, I’m not convinced that the concept will have the same level of success.

In Toronto – and across the country, for that matter – flip flops are mainly worn during just one season of the year. The rest of the time, consumers are buying shoes and boots designed to withstand the rain, snow and cool temperatures that are inevitable from October to April.

Sanuk Avenue Men's Sandal, $30.00

During these months, there’s little demand for open-toe footwear, with the exception of vacation-goers needing sandals for a trip south to escape this country’s sub-zero temperatures.

So while Flip Flop Shop might be a popular destination a few months of the year (Canadians do love their flip flops during cottage season!), I suspect that in this climate, its sales may be less robust than they are in the sunny southern states.

The company does carry a small selection of closed-toe shoes, and perhaps it will expand these offerings at its Canadian stores as a way to keep the customers coming when the temperature drops. If not, it may be a long and cold winter for Flip Flop Shop.

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