What is a flagship store?
Ever wondered exactly what makes a space a ‘flagship’ store?
A flagship store is the lead store in a retail chain.
The term comes from naval traditions where the flagship vessel is the lead ship in a fleet. As such, it is usually the largest, most well-known or has the best weapons.
In the same way, the flagship store acts as a showcase for the brand or retailer. Its job is to draw customers into the brand, over and above making sales. The focus is on experience and creating a destination store that people want to visit.
Some of the best known flagship stores are tourist attractions in their own right.
How does a store become a flagship?
There’s no one route to becoming a flagship store. It could be the brand’s first store, it could be the largest store in the chain, or in a prominent or prestigious shopping location that attracts lots of customers. It might have the widest product range and/or exclusive items, unique design or decor, or just generally be the best known of the chain’s stores.
A flagship store may combine some or all of these traits. Many brands have more than one flagship store, whether that’s one in each territory, or even more than one in the same city covering different prime locations or with their own unique design.
Here are five quintessential flagship stores that embody this brand showcase ideal:
1. Lush, Oxford Street, London
This flagship store is the largest Lush shop in the world. Spread over three floors, it takes the classic interactive Lush shopping experience and amplifies it. An in-store Hair Lab lets customers try hair care products and Lush’s natural henna hair dyes. On the top floor there is a whole corner dedicated to the mouldable Fun range, where visitors can model and create to their heart’s content.
On the ground floor is the Lush Spa where customers can book massages and other special treatments, and a sensory perfume experience which boasts different rooms themed around each fragrance. Throughout the store is an ever-changing array of exclusive products, which can’t be bought anywhere else.
2. Apple, 5th Avenue, New York
Open 24/7 365 days a year, Apple’s flagship New York store never sleeps. A stunning 30-foot square glass cube complete with lit-up Apple logo houses the entrance. Once inside customers have to go down the elevator or curving stairs to get into the store proper. One of Apple’s largest stores worldwide, the 5th Avenue flagship is home to a 45 ft Genius Bar for troubleshooting and support.
The rest of the space is used for displaying Apple’s wares, but despite the amount of products laid out there’s still plenty of open space for customers to move around in. The store also offers a vast programme of events and workshops helping customers get to grips with everything from product basics to videography.
3. Burberry, Regent Street, London
Created to blur Burberry’s physical and digital worlds, the Regent Street flagship store brings the website experience to life. Built around the same different sections as the website, the store also uses some of retail’s cleverest tech to enhance the shopping experience. Interactive mirrors respond to products, global events are livestreamed and throughout screens dominate without feeling overwhelming.
A dedicated gifts section, with personalisation options, and an all-day café are also part of the space. Plus, Burberry puts on various cultural offerings including in-store gigs. To add something extra special to the experience, Burberry created an exclusive Regent Street collection for the store on opening. This was the first time the company had ever made a line specifically for a store.
4. Louis Vuitton, Champs-Elysees, Paris
This beautiful art deco building is almost directly opposite the site of the first Louis Vuitton store, which opened in 1914. Inside the store does away with the traditional idea of floors or storeys. Instead it has a four level spiral of terraces, each with its own products and design. It means customers don’t have to move through the store by the usual stairways.
The interior is designed to reflect the character of the Champs-Elysees promenade. Contemporary art is visible right throughout the store and the 65 ft long ‘travelling staircase’ showcases work from video artist Tim White-Sobieski.
5. Ralph Lauren, 5th Avenue, New York
Ralph Lauren stores aren’t a rare thing in New York, but among them is the brand’s first flagship store for its Polo brand. With three-storeys, it is home to the men’s, women’s and children’s Polo collections. It was the first store to reveal the complete Polo collection for women.
Inside is also Ralph’s Coffee, Ralph Lauren’s first coffee shop. In addition, the company’s first ever New York restaurant, The Polo Bar, is just around the corner. The interior design is based around natural materials with wood and stone dominating. There are also four working fireplaces.