Sonos concept store, SOHO New York

If you have been into the Auckland CBD in recent times, you will have noticed that downtown is reclaiming its popularity and cool as both global and local brands either improve or land their physical presence with impressive flagship and concept stores showcasing the best that the brand has to offer.

I am trying to remember when it all started to gain momentum in NZ. First the impressive development of Britomart with the alluring precinct including Lululemon, Bobbi Brown, Karen Walker, Kathryn Wilson and co. Then across at Te Ara Tāhuhu Walking Street; Jo Malone, Ted Baker, Nike and Keihl’s joined the ranks. AS colour, Service Denim, Marmont and a few others helped weave the way back to Queen Street and then a few new faces including The North Face, Coach, T2 and Ugg.

Barker’s Flagship store, Auckland City (Image: The Register)

Tous, Prada, LV, Gucci and Nespresso came to town. ANZ and BNZ dropped in impressive statement locations. Then came the incredibly impressive lines of young ladies waiting to get into Top Shop. Then Farmers returned to the city, a Life Pharmacy concept, Elizabeth Arden and the list continues. My pick of the best. Barkers. In recent weeks Adidas has landed. H&M and Zara will all be here soon. I can’t wait for Tiffany & Co. The list goes on.

Topshop opening in Auckland (Image: Stuff.co.nz)

Topshop opening in Auckland (Image: Stuff.co.nz)

These flagships are common place in London, New York, Amsterdam, Milan and Barcelona. But the flagship store is an international phenomenon here with a vengeance and for good reason. 

Flagships add a level of physicality to a brand and move beyond a simple shopping function. They bring to life the brand experience in a way that is inspiring and engaging allowing customers to interact and connecting with them at a deep emotional and intuitive level. 

These stores help complement the digital presence of the brand and elevate customer’s expectations of “what good looks like for the brand. These stores provide new reason to physically visit the store.

Niketown flagship store Regent Street, London (Image: Nike)

Internationally there is strong evidence that these stores are becoming an important part of people’s lives. As gathering points, cool places to see people and be seen, somewhere to hang, socialise, be entertained and learn. It is a brands ability to demonstrate confidence, commitment, leadership and romance to their customers. Flagships are an essential component of a retailers brand strategy.

Eataly flagship New York community, eating experience, social heart

Eataly flagship New York community, eating experience, social heart

Shoppers today crave new, shiny and exciting experiences so these environments will need to be refreshed much more frequently. You need to have the commitment, processes and ability to refresh without hamstringing your teams and business.

Flagships need to work off the backbone processes of the business so that it is an effective and efficient retail space as well as being inspirational. There must be clear brand alignment between the flagship store and the way the brand communicates. It cannot be a statement, merely for statement sakes or it will be confusing to shoppers. The store must keep with the look and feel of the retail experience but take it to an entirely new level.

Rayban flagship store Soho, New York - education, personalisation, interaction

So what does that mean for retailers who don’t currently have a flagship store strategy?

5 things to consider if you think a flagship store should be a part of your strategy

  1. How important is a flagship to your consumer strategy? What does it add to the understanding of your brand that customers don’t know already?
  2. How will you use the flagship store? Will you celebrate what you have to offer, offer new interactions and experiences or to counter your competitors?
  3. Who are you trying to target? What will excite them? What will they experience?
  4. How does the flagship store fit with with your physical and digital presences? How will it be different and complementary?
  5. What will carry over from your flagship store to your other stores? How will that occur?

Building a successful flagship store strategy means: 
• minimising potential risks, 
• choosing a location that fits with your your brand strategy, 
• creating a fully functional store concept that maximises engagement with the brand and
• leveraging the unique requirements of that particular location

Tiffany & Co opening in Auckland CBD later this year

Confidence in flagships is strong and remains a focus by best in class retailers world-wide. Global brands will continue to look to our shores (new markets) to support their global strategies. High profile locations will be the focus and the market is going to get competitive. This is an exciting time in retail. Should you shine bright like a diamond?

If you want to explore more about how a Flagship store concept could work for your retail brand strategy, make sure you contact The Retail Collective to find out more.