Re-imagining the High Street

Why flagship stores must nail the in-store experience

The High Street continues to change, but with more and more pressure being applied by the online giants, does the future belong to the flagship? More than just a shop, a flagship store creates an experience for shoppers and gives brands a vehicle to define their core identity and how they want to be seen. So, how are they being used?

Many brands are considering what message flagship stores are giving their customers. At a time when consumers are turning to online and mobile shopping for its variety and convenience, that large-format, prime location message is perhaps no longer the right one.

Today, if flagship stores are going to act as effective marketing tools, they need to innovate, taking note of their digital competitors to offer exciting, engaging experiences. They need to act more like immersive theatres, creating a magical experience that tourists will go out of their way to visit.

Here’s what to expect from the flagship stores of the future.

Smaller, more intimate stores

Sprawling floor space is no longer a must for a flagship store. In the US, brands including Target, Macy’s and Abercrombie & Fitch are downsizing and opening stores in smaller locations as a way of consolidating merchandise and developing a more intimate relationship with customers.

Speaking to Business Insider, Maya Mikhailov, CMO and cofounder of GPShopper explained how digitally-native brands such as make-up retailer Glossier and shoe company Rothy’s are opening smaller locations that “exude their brand’s essence every time a consumer steps through the door.”

The wow factor

Brands know they need to create an environment within their flagship stores that encourages customers to capture memorable moments that they can share on social media. By enticing customers away from an online shopping experience into a real-world physical store, brands are giving their customers the opportunity to become organically-generated brand ambassadors.

The other alternative is for the brand to capture customer experiences itself. In Nike’s SoHo New York flagship store, treadmills and basketball hoops come complete with digital screens showing customers’ best sporting efforts. Customers can then access the footage via the Nike app and share on social media.

Less is more

Logic tells us that a bigger store means more inventory. But that’s not what customers are looking for. The evidence shows that customers favour a more curated shopping experience, and more brands are starting to stock a limited amount of their range.

Even larger, legacy brands are taking note. H&M’s US president Martino Pessina knows that too much choice in one shop can become overwhelming for the consumer, saying: “We need to find ways to fill the stores creatively and not just with garments.”

An immersive experience

Whatever the size of your flagship store, it needs to promote the brand image and bring a brand’s personality to life. When Microsoft very recently opened its first European flagship store in London’s Oxford Circus, it came complete with gaming lounge, multi-purpose community theatre and simulation McLaren sports car.

Meanwhile, Diageo is planning to open a flagship Johnny Walker centre to bring to life the story of the Scotch whisky. Plans for a multi-sensory, immersive visitor experience include tours, events, training opportunities, roof-top bars and a retail space. When it opens, economic projections suggest it will generate around £135 million in tourism spend in Edinburgh’s wider economy.

Flagship stores of the future will continue to bring together marketing and retailing, enticing the customer to experience the product and spread the word on social media.

In-store services

Many brands see in-store services as a way to attract more customers through the door. Fashion retailers H&M, Gap and Uniqlo now offer repairs, personalisation and tailoring services in a bid to undo some of the environmental damage caused by fast fashion. Nordstrom’s flagship store in New York also offers shoe shining, a restaurant and bar.

However, leading the way in in-store services has to be London’s Liberty and Harrods, offering nail bars, hair salons, body piercing, florists and beauty spas to attract new customers and keep them onsite for longer.

Constantly evolving

Smaller, digitally-native brands have the opportunity to experiment with different store ideas and concepts, and are reminding larger retailers that evolution is the only way to stay relevant. The days when a brand would open a flagship store, spend a considerable sum doing so, and then not give it a second thought are gone. In the future we can expect to see a continual cycle of flagship store reinvention and iterations.

At Linney we help our clients focus on the key stages of the marketing process and enable them to continually innovate and evolve. If you’d like to find out how we can help your brand succeed in the future, get in touch today.