Retail Definition of Flagship Stores

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The term "flagship" refers to a ship that is the largest, fastest, newest, most heavily armed, most well known, or the lead ship in a fleet. When applied to a particular retail store, the designation flagship is awarded to a store at the retailer's primary location, a store in a prominent location, a chain's largest store, the store that holds or sells the highest volume of merchandise, a retailer's most well-known location, a chain's first retail outlet, a store location with a decor or merchandise mix that is distinctly different from the rest of the chain, or the store in a chain that carries the most high-priced merchandise catering to the most upscale customers.

Depending on their uniqueness, individual flagship stores can actually become a tourist attraction in their own right when grouped together in one location. For example, Fifth Avenue in New York, High Street in London, and Nanjing Road in Shanghai.

Examples of Flagship Store Locations Around the World 

Because of size alone, some retail stores qualify for flagship status because they are officially the largest of their type. The largest flagship stores in the world include: 

  • Level Shoe District Store - World's Largest Flagship Shoe Store in Dubai
  • Powell's Book Store - World's Largest Flagship Book Store in Portland, OR
  • Shinsegae Centum City Department Store - Largest Single Flagship Store in the World in Busan, South Korea
  • Buc-ee's Convenience Store - World's Largest Flagship Convenience Store in New Braunfels, TX

According to the strict definition of the term flagship, every retail store that is the first in its chain to open in any city or state is considered a flagship (first) store. Typically, retailers will not give all of their first stores a flagship designation but, rather, reserve the flagship title for the retail store locations that are both first and unique in some way. 

What follows are some examples of flagship store locations around the world that have earned their flagship status because of their unique features. 

Chicago Flagship Stores

  • AT&T Michigan Avenue Flagship

China Flagship Stores

Maryland Flagship Stores

New York Flagship Stores

  • Victoria's Secret Herald Square Flagship, New York City
  • Lane Bryant - Manhattan
  • Victoria's Secret - Herald Square
  • Walgreens - Empire State Building
  • Burton Snow Boards - New York City
  • Lord & Taylor - Fifth Avenue
  • Macy's - West 34th Street
  • Mrs. Fields - Fulton & Broadway
  • Nokia - East 57th Street
  • Palm Retail Stores - Rockefeller Center
  • Paul Smith - Green Street, Soho
  • Prada - Broadway Soho
  • Saks Fifth Avenue - Fifth Avenue
  • Steuben Glass - Madison Avenue
  • Tiffany's - Fifth Avenue & 57th Manhattan
  • UNIQLO - Broadway Soho
  • Whole Foods - Time Warner Center, Manhattan
  • FAO Schwartz - Manhattan (This iconic flagship store is now CLOSED)

Seattle Flagship Stores

UK Flagship Stores

  • Abercrombie & Fitch - Burlington Gardens London
  • Apple - Regent Street London
  • Louis Vuitton - New Bond Street London
  • Nike - Oxford Street London
  • Selfridges - Oxford Street London
  • Solange Azagury-Partridge - New Bond Street London
  • Sunglass Hut - New Bond Street London
  • UNIQLO - Oxford Street London
  • Whole Foods - Kensington High Street London

There are plenty of reasons why a retail company would pay the significantly higher construction costs and monthly rent that a retail flagship store demands. Just the press coverage alone can be invaluable to a retail brand. There are also reasons why a flagship store would NOT be a good idea for a retail chain.

10 Reasons Why a Retail Company Should NOT Open a Flagship Store

1) The flagship location does not provide enough of a wow to become a tourist destination, and there is nothing worth photographing and posting on social media.

2) There is no unique flagship-only merchandise offered that customers could not get in any other retail location in the chain and, therefore, the store offers no "exclusivity."

3) The flagship branding does not provide any new information about the company and does not give customers anything noteworthy to talk about.

4) The store does not target a new, expanded, or clearly defined niche demographic.

5) The store is not special enough to lure people away from the company website and through the physical store doors.

6) There are no successful flagship features that could be adapted by any other stores in the chain.

7) The sole purpose of the store is to make money in a high-traffic area. (Flagships are often not the most profitable store locations in the chain because high-traffic shopping areas also have high rent prices.)

8) The location of the flagship store is in a country that cannot support the company's existing infrastructure. 

9) The company leaders believe "If we build it, they will come."

10) The company leader does not subscribe to the too big to fail mentality.