Retail Definition of Flagship Stores

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The retail term "flagship store" does not have its origins in a glossary of retail terms.  Of nautical origin, the term "flagship" refers to a ship which is the largest, fastest, newest, most heavily armed, most well known, or the lead ship in a fleet.

Explanation of the Flagship Term

When applied to a particular retail store, the designation of "flagship" is given to a 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 decor or merchandise mix that is distinctly different from the rest of the chain, or the store location in a chain which carries the most high-priced merchandise catering to the most upscale customers.

Depending on the level of their uniqueness, individual flagship stores can actually become a tourist attraction in their own right.  When grouped together within a shopping district, a collection of high profile flagship stores - like 5th 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, these retail stores qualify for "flagship" status because they are officially designated as 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 Centumcity 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

Following a strict definition of the "flagship" store term, every retail store that is the first in its chain to open in any city or state would be considered a "flagship" (first) store.  But generally, 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.  Click the links to find out more about the flagship features of these iconic global retail stores.

Chicago Flagship Stores

  • AT&T Michigan Avenue Flagship

China Flagship Stores

(Click the link to see the best features of All China Flagship Stores)

  • Apple - Shanghai
  • Bucheron - Beijing
  • Coach - Shanghai
  • Funtalk China Holdings Limited -
  • Gap -
  • Louis Vuitton - Shanghai
  • Moncler -
  • Sephora - Beijing
  • Source -
  • Sunseeker -
  • Vans - Beijing

Maryland Flagship Stores

New York Flagship Stores

(Click the link to see the best features of ALL New York Flagship Stores)

  • World's Largest Victoria's Secret Herald Square Flagship
  • Lane Bryant - Manhattan
  • Victorias 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
  • Tiffanys - 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 take the extra time, make the extra effort and 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 doesn't provide enough of a wow to become a tourist destination and there's nothing worth photographing and posting on social media.

2)  There's no unique flagship-only merchandise offered that customers couldn't get in any other retail location in the chain, and therefore, offers no "exclusivity."

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

4)  It doesn't target a new, expanded, or clearly defined niche demographic.

5)  It's not special enough to lure people away from the company website and into 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 often aren't 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 which can't be supported by the company's existing infrastructure.  

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

10)  The company leader believes there is such a thing as "Too Big To Fail" in any retail industry in any country in the world.