What Is a Flagship Store?

Definition & Examples of Flagship Stores

Two women shopping in upscale clothing boutique
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 Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

A flagship store is a retailer's lead, largest, or otherwise most important store. Many flagship stores are tourist destinations as much as shopping locations.

Learn more about the importance of flagship stores and where they can be found in the world.

What Is a Flagship Store?

A flagship retail store is the original, most recognizable, or otherwise important location for a brand. Stores are usually designated a retailer's flagship location if the store:

  • Is the retailer's primary location
  • Is in a prominent location
  • Is the chain's largest store
  • Holds or sells the retailer's highest volume of merchandise
  • Is a retailer's most well-known location
  • Was the first retail outlet for the brand
  • Has a decor or merchandise mix that is distinct from the rest of the chain
  • Carries the brand's most high-priced merchandise or caters to the brand's most upscale customers
  • Sets a local or world record for qualities such as size
  • Is an otherwise a unique or interesting destination

The term "flagship" refers to the lead ship in a fleet, which is usually the largest, fastest, newest, most heavily armed, or most well-known ship.

How a Flagship Store Works

Flagship stores serve multiple functions for a retailer. They can:

  • Establish branding and merchandising standards for other stores
  • Be used for marketing and social media
  • Attract customers for both shopping and events
  • Increase brand recognition and customer loyalty
  • Create press coverage due to unique features, products, events, and more

Depending on their uniqueness, individual flagship stores can become a tourist attraction in their own right, especially when there are many flagship stores grouped together in a single shopping destination.

Shopping districts like Fifth Avenue in New York, High Street in London, and Nanjing Road in Shanghai contain multiple flagship stores that attract a huge number of shoppers every day.

It is more important for a flagship store to attract customers to the brand and create marketing buzz than it is for the location to make a profit.

Types of Flagship Stores

Every retail store that is the first in its chain to open in any city or state is considered a flagship store. Typically, however, retailers will reserve the flagship title for the retail store locations that are both first and unique in some way. 

World's Largest Flagship Stores

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: World's largest shoe store in Dubai, UAE
  • Powell's City of Books: World's largest used and new bookstore in Portland, OR
  • Shinsegae Centum City Department Store: Largest department store in the world in Busan, South Korea
  • Buc-ee's Convenience Store: World's largest convenience store in New Braunfels, TX

Other flagship store locations have earned their flagship status because of their unique features or their role as a tourist destination. These can be found all around the world, even if the company was founded or first opened a store in a different country

Flagship Stores in the United States

  • AT&T Michigan Avenue: Chicago
  • Lane Bryant Manhattan: New York City
  • Lord & Taylor Fifth Avenue: New York City
  • Prada Broadway Soho: New York City
  • Saks Fifth Avenue: Fifth Avenue New York City
  • Tiffany's: New York City

Flagship Stores in China

  • Bucheron: Beijing
  • Coach: Shanghai
  • Louis Vuitton: Shanghai
  • Moncler: Beijing
  • Sunseeker: Sanya

Flagship Stores in the United Kingdom

  • 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

Is a Flagship Store Worth It?

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.

The press coverage that a flagship location generates can be invaluable to a retail brand, and a flagship store that serves as a tourist destination can increase brand recognition, word of mouth marketing, and customer loyalty. 

There are also reasons why a flagship store would not be a good investment for a retail chain.

  • The flagship location is not likely to become a tourist destination, and there is nothing worth photographing and posting on social media.
  • There is no unique or exclusive merchandise that customers could not get in any other retail location.
  • The store is not special enough to lure people away from the company website and through the physical store doors.
  • 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.
  • The location of the flagship store is in a country that cannot support the company's existing infrastructure. 

Whether or not a flagship store is a good idea for a brand depends on the brand's marketing, financial stability, customers, and more.

Key Takeaways

  • A flagship store is a retailer's lead, largest, or otherwise most important store.
  • Individual flagship stores can become a tourist attraction in their own right, especially when there are many flagship stores grouped together in a single shopping destination.
  • Some retail stores qualify for flagship status because they are officially the largest of their type. Others earn flagship status because of their unique features or role as a tourist destination.
  • It is more important for a flagship store to attract customers to the brand and create marketing buzz than it is for the location to make a profit.

Article Sources

  1. The Dubai Mall. "Level Shoes." Accessed Aug. 1, 2020.

  2. Powell's City of Books. "Powell's City of Books." Accessed Aug. 1, 2020.

  3. VisitKorea. "Shinsegae Centum City." Accessed Aug. 1, 2020.

  4. Buc-ee's. "World Records." Accessed Aug. 1, 2020.