Despite rough economic waters around the world, the global retail fleet has continued sailing, landing flagship stores in countries around the world. The retailers that are launching these flagship locations are hoping that even though brick-and-mortar retailing is unsteady and unpredictable, that the novelty of first, best, and biggest flagship stores will have enough magnetic power to draw shoppers through the doors in big numbers.
In August, some of the largest retail chains in the world left their homeland to open flagship stores in international locations where they want to establish presence and find new customers with cash to spend. Victoria's Secret went to the UK to open a store in London, Steve Madden opened a flagship store in New Delhi, and M&M's opened a flagship store in the Changi departures lounge, which is its third flagship store in that Singapore airport.
Even though the U.S. is not considered to be a fertile retail market right now, both domestic and international retailers are betting that if a retail concept is unique enough, it will trump any kind of spending slowdown. That's why AT&T (T) opened a flagship store in Chicago, microgrocer in.gredients opened a flagship store in Austin, Greek mattress company Coco-Mat opened a flagship store in SoHo, U.S. mattress maker Tempur-pedic opened its flagship store in Boston, and British clothier Ted Baker opened a flagship store in prime shopping territory on Fifth Avenue in New York.
While the number of flagships being christened this month gives the impression that the retail flagship store strategy is still going strong, the number of future flagship stores announced this month gives the impression that the global flagship fleet will be sailing even stronger - at least for another year. Here's the details on the most recent announcements about future flagships:
Apple's (AAPL) new store in Palo Alto, California can be considered a "flagship," in that it is supposed to be the first with a "new prototype." Speculations are that Apple is working hard to get the store opened before its iPhone 5 and iPad Mini launches, which are both expected to happen in September.
Joe's Jeans will open a flagship store on Melrose Place in Los Angeles, California in September. Reports so far say that the special flagship features of this Joe's Jeans location will include:
- 2,700 square feet
- Decorated with one-of-a-kind vintage furniture
- Beamed ceilings and crystal chandeliers
- Fireplace, outdoor garden, and sitting area
- Exclusive merchandise available only to SoHo store shoppers
New Era headwear announced via its Facebook page that it plans to open a flagship store in New Orleans this Fall. No further details are available yet, and hopefully these plans weren't drowned out by the unwelcome arrival of Hurricane Isaac to New Orleans this week.
Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) announced plans to open a flagship store in Chile in 2013. The plans so far are for a 3,000 square metre, two-story store which will be H&M's first store in the southern hemisphere. Another addition to H&M's global flagship fleet will be its 5,300 square metre Manhattan store, which is scheduled to open on Fifth Avenue next year.
Whole Foods (WFMI) has announced that it will open a flagship store in the former home of the Boston Herald, which is now referred to as the Ink Block. The Whole Foods store will be 50,000 square feet, and the largest Whole foods in Boston. So far plans for the Ink Block Whole Foods include an outdoor sidewalk cafe, a gelato bar, and plenty of prepared foods. Construction is scheduled to start on this Whole Foods flagship store in early 2013.
Jos. A. Bank announced that it would be opening a 6,600 square-foot two-story flagship store in San Francisco. There's not much news about this new flagship store except that the location used to be a Men's Wearhouse store, which could either be an advantage or a jinx.
Australia's Sass & Bide has confirmed plans for opening a flagship wormen's apparel store in New York in January or February, 2013. The exact location hasn't been announced yet, but reportedly the company is looking at retail space in SoHo.
The final news about this month's international flagship activity comes from Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF). The cooled-off brand of cool kids has stopped all international flagship plans amidst its falling sales and stock prices, and rising surplus inventory levels. This is bigger news than it may seem since closing underperforming U.S. stores and replacing them with international flagships was Abercrombie's primary strategy in 2012. Abercrombie leaders have all sorts of excuses for their limping global fleet including the European economy and "cannibalization," but have yet to concede that the Abercrombie & Fitch brand may not be as cool as it used to be... or at least not as cool as they had once convinced themselves it was.