The Strategic Evolution of Fashion Flagship Stores

  •  Edoardo Sabbadin    
  •  Simone Aiolfi    


About thirty-five years ago the trend of investing in flagship stores in the fashion and luxury sectors started, and has not stopped even since the last economic crisis. Recently, flagship stores have expanded into new sectors. There is an increased interest in flagship stores; but until now, they have received little attention in academic research. Published papers are mainly related to the fields of luxury shopping and internationalization studies.

Nowadays, the term “flagship store” is ambiguous; it has different meanings. A flagship brand store is, in general terms, the most important, expensive, and representative store of the brand. It has to show the full range of products and services offered. Usually it is the largest store, in the most prestigious location, and adopts original store design solutions; they offer new facilities, and a very high service level. Moreover, flagship designers are famous and prestigious architects; (“Signature” architects, or “Archistars”) and the aim is to create iconic buildings.

The store design solutions are different from other mono-brand stores or franchisee outlets of the company.

Academic research until recent years has overlooked studying the trend of the main luxury and fashion international companies opening flagship stores; which are the most expensive type of retail stores to own, nevertheless a number of questions remain. The purposes of this paper are (1) to consider the evolution of the role of the main types of  flagship stores, (2) to establish whether flagship stores constitute a marketing innovation, (3) to discuss factors pushing firms to develop flagship stores and finally, (4) to assess implications for management. In order to answer to our research questions, the study adopts a qualitative approach, in the belief that this type of research is consistent with the research questions. Particularly, we adopted two research methods: interviews and cases studies. We collected interviews with store designers and entrepreneurs. Finally, some information was also collected from secondary sources such as web sites or company news. Our study provides relevant information for marketing managers considering the cost of investing in flagship stores. Vertical branding and new flagship brand stores are becoming increasingly widespread among different firms and sectors, and are bringing to the forefront a requirement for new skills. Particularly in the store design phase, where firms need to be able to take part in constructive dialogue with a wide variety of professional profiles like architects, internal designers, and visual merchandisers. They need a new approach to decoding and displaying the primary values of a brand through innovative store design solutions and sales points, which should be inspired by the communication and entertainment industries. Flagship brand stores should be designed and run to be unique unrepeatable places, able to enhance brand image and provide animation and entertainment value to the brand. Furthermore, flagship store success depends on the firm’s ability to integrate interdisciplinary issues and commercial and artistic-creative communication.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.