When Does a Store Become a Flagship?

Samsung debuts a new experience destination in London
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Posted August 23, 2019

Flagships lead fleets, don’t they? Follow this line of thought and, unless you have multiple fleets, it’s a fair bet that the number of flagships that any organization might have will be counted on the fingers of one hand. Yet increasingly, retailers have a habit of telling a waiting world that they have opened another flagship.

What they probably mean is that they’ve opened another large store, bigger than others and therefore with more stuff in it. But are these flagship or just big stores? Probably the latter.

Occasionally, however, things are different. On the final day of July, Samsung opened a space in London’s Kings Cross that could reasonably be described as a flagship. There are only two other outposts like it: in Frankfurt, Germany, and Seoul, South Korea. This one has the edge owing to its architecture, which consists of two buildings that from the outside look like a bridge that can be raised whose two sides have been lowered to meet in a kiss.

Inside, this may be a store, of sorts, but nothing can be bought and carried away on the spot. Instead, shoppers can test-drive a range of digital experiences, from connected homes to digital graffiti on a large faux brick wall. It’s about getting a glimpse of what the future might look like, as seen through a Samsung lens, and in truth, it looks pretty winsome.

And even if it’s not a place in which items can be directly bought (they can be ordered online), it is a location that the rest of the fleet can look at and aspire to be part of. This, surely, must be what is meant by a flagship, and given that there are just three Samsung destinations like this across the whole world, then giving it this appellation is not just fair, but essential. If you’re in London, be sure to visit.

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.