Flagship stores have a special place in a retailer’s portfolio. Designed to stand out from the crowd and offer consumers a different type of shopping experience to their usual store visit, the flagship store has a key role to play for both luxury and lower priced retail brands.
“Flagship stores set an example for the other stores in a chain to display to the world what the brand represents,” says Michael Hirschfeld, Managing Director, National Retail Tenant Services at JLL.
Typically located in prime urban retail corridors and generally larger in size than the average fleet store, flagships serve as a showcase for new technology, original artwork, remarkable architecture and dramatic interior design. They often carry exclusive merchandise and offer specialty services.
“Above all,” says Hirschfeld, “these stores are an occasion to create a physical embodiment of a brand story through design and spectacle.”
Following are eight key traits usually shared by flagship stores:
- Bigger stores to wow the shopper
Flagships are often the biggest stores in a brand’s fleet. Their size is meant to impress the shopper, and it also allows for extending the merchandise mix beyond what an average store offers. Those unique extras are what help make flagships special. Walgreens’ flagship in Chicago is 26,000 square feet, compared with 10,000 to 16,000 square feet in a typical suburban location.
- Elements of heritage
Some flagships include pieces of a brand’s history as an homage to the past and an invitation into the retailer’s culture. This could come in the form of museum-like displays of a brand’s early products or origins or an iconic piece of merchandise the brand prides itself on. Burberry’s flagship in Chicago features a scarf bar displaying the plaid scarves the brand is known for, with employees on hand to explain their origin and creation.
- Famous artwork
Most often found in luxury flagships, famous or one-of-a-kind artwork helps make a space distinctive and special. Not only is art an added attraction to drive interest in a flagship, but it also generates feelings of authenticity and extravagance. Louis Vuitton’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York featured artist Xavier Veilhan’s Mobile.
- Technology showcase
Flagship stores are often testing grounds for new retail technology, partly because it may be too expensive to implement in every store a brand operates. Flagship technology can do anything from amuse and entertain to educate and inform. Under Armour’s Chicago flagship includes a virtual driving range and interactive putting green, among other tech attractions.
- Food and beverage
For shoppers needing a coffee or a bite to eat in between browsing the merchandise, some flagships now offer cafes, full bars and even restaurants. These facilities are meant to keep shoppers in the store instead of heading off to food or drink options nearby. Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship store in New York offers users a touch screen through which they can, among other things, order a drink to enjoy while browsing
- Iconic architecture
A flagship store itself may be a historic structure. Some newer stores have set up shop within historic buildings, while others use dramatic architecture to turn stores into must-see destinations. Apple’s flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York is instantly recognizable from the iconic 32-foot glass cube which sits atop the underground store.
- Hospitality areas
Luxury brands are known to offer amenities including VIP spaces, private fitting rooms and lounge areas in their flagship stores. Those perks are meant to entice and reward their best customers. Other retailers attract shopper and media attention with the use of community and event spaces. Lululemon on New York’s Fifth Avenue has a 4,200 square foot community space called Hub Seventeen with picnic tables and lockers where fitness classes, workshops and other events are held.
- Green features
Sustainability and eco-friendly construction are amenities that can attract the increasing number of customers who place a high value on green brand values. The Nike Store on Post Street in San Francisco is a LEED Gold certified project.