IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 28 Aug 2015

Could a retailer’s flagship be its own website?

Last week we read an article on how the role of the flagship store is changing, and were pleasantly surprised to see a number of Retail Assist’s customers featuring in this post by Retail Week.

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London has some exceptional flagship stores, and Selfridges is perhaps the poster child for this, being the second largest store in the UK and hosting a plethora of designer brands.

However, it seems some of our retail IT customers are breaking the mould of a ‘typical’ flagship store. A flagship is the retailer’s pre-eminent store, designed to showcase the brand and market itself to draw in consumers. With in-store technology becoming ever more prominent, the flagship boasts its most impressive technological devices and original ‘feng shui’ to create an unforgettable customer experience.

Earlier this year, Oasis reopened its London Argyll Street flagship, focusing on tech and customer experience. The Oasis flagship creates in-store theatre, presenting a digital family tree wall behind the escalators, featuring moving framed portraits. Behind the cash desk there are digital windows that show a looped video of a meadow on a spring day, followed by clouds unleashing a downpour of rain. The men’s waiting area at Oasis’ flagship is known as the ‘library’, where people can sit, relax and read a book.

Burberry’s flagship on Regent Street seamlessly blurs the physical and digital worlds. Burberry on Regent Street uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) for interactive mirrors that transfer into personalised screens. They also show live global screenings of their catwalks and events in-store. Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s CEO says “Walking through the doors is just like walking into our website. It is Burberry World Live.”

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So where does ‘the flagship’s changing role’ come in? The typical presumption is that the flagship should be located in London, and the store itself should be the largest of the chain. Yet, Karen Millen’s Knightsbridge store is relatively small in comparison to other flagships (8,000 sq ft), and Paperchase homes its second flagship on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street. Glasgow’s Paperchase is 15,000 sq ft, making it smaller than the one on Tottenham Court Road, London. However, the interior makes up for its smaller space, giving it claim to be the brands’ true flagship. Similarly to Paperchase’s break from the norm, New Look have ‘brand flags’ rather than one flagship store, which are their selected best stores across the UK.

Are stores breaking away from the typical flagship? As suggested in Retail Week, with ecommerce continuously on the rise, who’s to say a store’s flagship shouldn’t be its own website or mobile app? At the end of last year, Karen Millen created its virtual online flagship store. The virtual version of its Knightsbridge four floor shop was made to bring the in-store experience online, with the ability to navigate around each floor and pick items to add to your online basket.

As the previous quote from Angela Ahrendts at Burberry explains, Burberry’s flagship was created to be as similar as possible to their website, insinuating that the consumer wants to experience things in-store as they do online.

With the rise of online shopping and the creation of shopping tech such as the 360 Virtual Reality experience directly with River Island’s e-commerce platform and Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles, retailers can create impeccable virtual shops at the consumer’s doorstep.

Ecommerce giant Amazon opened its first bricks-and-mortar store in Indiana earlier this year. This could be classed as Amazon’s flagship, or is it their website that’s the true showcase for the brand? On the other hand, could a retailer ever go from a bricks-and-mortar to a website flagship? We’ll have to wait and see.

If you would like more information about our customers and the IT services and solutions we provide to them, visit our customer page and request a case study.

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