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John Ryan

What To Do When a Store’s Not a Flagship

Non-flagship stores can still be powerful brand ambassadors without all the bells and whistles




ONE OF THE HALLMARKS of a press release about a new store is the word “flagship.” Translated, this means a shop that is probably bigger than the rest of an estate and into which a retailer has piled everything they are capable of regarding design, tech and (most of the time) stock.

It’s the best of the best and will, therefore, garner a lot of column inches, in theory at least. But what about stores that don’t merit the label and which are both smaller and the sort of thing that most shoppers will encounter? There are two things about non-flagship stores. They will only have some of the elements that characterize the leader of the fleet, and they may not act as destinations like a bigger store does.

That said, they can still work as very powerful brand ambassadors. Value fashion retailer Primark has just opened a store in Salisbury. For those of you who don’t know where Salisbury is, it’s in Wiltshire in central-southern England and it has a cathedral. It’s worth mentioning this because the outsize church boasts the highest spire in the U.K. (404 feet) and is a landmark and surely an ecclesiastical flagship.

While the new Primark doesn’t have anything of the kind, it does have two floors, graphics that emphasize its commitment to sustainability, and the full range of men’s, women’s, kid’s and home that the retailer offers in much larger spaces. No, it doesn’t have a café, barber or nail bar, all of which can be found in the Primark flagship in Birmingham in the West Midlands, but there is no sense of being short-changed regarding the inventory offer.

Small(er), non-flagship stores are labors of love in just the same way as their much bigger cousins, and if a retailer is worth its salt, this will be obvious. Making a small space shine is not easy, and the strength of both fitout and design will determine whether this is possible.


John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.



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