It's unfortunate timing that Victoria's Secret (LTD), Nike (NKE), McCormick's Spices, and Spanx all have brand new, leading edge, best of class flagship stores situated smack dab in the path of Hurricane Sandy. While the dire predictions about Sandy's path of destruction is worrisome to any retailer, the thought that all the extra, planning, care, effort, attention, time and money that goes into the launching of a flagship store might be blown away by hurricane headwinds or sunk by storm surge is torturous.
While U.S. retailers can only wait to learn the fate of their flagship retail properties anchored along the Eastern Seaboard, other global flagship stores are moving full steam ahead and forecasting a sunny financial future for the newest additions to their global fleet. UNIQLO, WingStop, and NARS are among the retail chains that opened new flagship stores in hurricane-free parts of the U.S. in October. Starbucks (SBUX), Mulberry and, of course, Apple (AAPL) are among the retail chains that launched international flagship stores this month.
Spanx is hoping against hope that the first brand-spanxing new retail store completely dedicated to Spanx products in McLean, Virginia will escape the wrath of Hurricane Sandy and still be able to open at the beginning of November. As if the fate of your very first retail store isn't enough to worry about, founder Sara Blakely and her team also have not-yet-opened retail stores located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and Paramus, New Jersey in the hurricane's path as well. As long as Sandy isn't the first customer through these Spanx store doors, all three locations will be their selling shape shifting hosiery well before the Christmas holiday shopping season.
Ironically, it's the flagship stores that opened in Florida this month that are watching all the hurricane reports from the sidelines this week. The new Lacoste flagship store in Miami is one of those safely harbored U.S. flagships that opened in October. If you missed the launch party, you not only missed the latest and greatest collection of Lacoste branded apparel, but also a grand opening party that included live crocodiles, "croc-tails," and an Everglades-inspired art exhibit. Oh yeah... You missed Kim Kardashian's BFF Jonathan Cheban too, but not sisters Kim and Kourtney, who were apparently too busy taking Miami to take part in the Lacoste croc-o-style fun.
Another Florida flagship opened in October when the Shula restaurant company leveraged its Shula Steakhouse brand image and opened the first Shula Burger restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. The competitive difference that the Shula leaders think they have in a very crowded burger chain market is the proprietary blend of Black Angus chuck, short rib meat and brisket which will put Shula Burgers in the "better burger segment." While it's not hard to have a "better burger" than most of the largest U.S. hamburger chains, if Shula Burger lives up to its own mission statement, it should easily rank high in the "better burger experience" segment.
Meanwhile, in the "better bagger" category, UK based luxury accessories manufacturer Mulberry opened a flagship store in Singapore this month in an effort to grab a larger share of the Asian luxury market. Wanting a piece of the Asian luxury market is not really unique or newsworthy. Welcome to the luxury retail club, Mulberry.
But the fact that Mulberry announced that it wants to shift its overall revenue from from a 60-40 domestic-to-international split to an 80-20 international-to-domestic split is quite noteworthy. It's another example of the inevitable reality that global retailing is becoming. The geographic target market for any retailer is now planet earth and a retail strategy that doesn't include global expansion is one that dramatically limits long-term growth.
Long-term is exactly what Starbucks had in mind when it entered the India market in October with the opening of its flagship store in Mumbai, India. To enter the difficult Indian retail market, Starbucks partnered with India-based Tata Global Beverages Limited to form Tata Starbucks Limited.
It might have been painful for Starbucks to give away half of its control, half of its brand name, and half of its profits in this 50/50 venture, but the upside potential of being able to sell iced coffee and half-caf frappuccinos to 1.2 billion people who live in the a tropical climate obviously made the Tata Starbucks partnership worth it.
The final global flagship news for the month of October comes from the land of bigger-is-better, more-is-never-enough, and record-breaking-just-because. The world's largest shoe store opened at the world's largest mall in October. The level Shoe District store in the Dubai Mall opened with 96.000 square feet, 250 different brands, and more than 15,000 pairs of shoes in its inventory. With 30 shop-in-shop boutiques, level Shoe District is really more of a shoe mall-in-mall, which is the stuff that any hardcore shoe-a-holic's dreamworld is made of.