Keys to Opening a Flagship

DTC Path to Physical Retail: The Flagship Store


Planning a move to physical retail is one thing, executing it is another. Following our last articles on the rise of DTC, reasons it works, and best practices for planning your path to the in-store world, we’re pivoting to execution.

No matter what kind of approach you take—flagship, shop-in-shop, pop-up, or a traditional distribution model—costs and challenges exist that you will have to overcome. In the coming weeks, we’re going to look at each of the possible paths you have to take your DTC brand in-store, starting with the biggest and boldest concept—the flagship store.

Be sure to check out other posts in the series: The Rise of DTC Storefronts, Reasons Digital Natives Open Physical Spaces, Keys to Success in Physical Retail.

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The Flagship Store: First, Biggest, Best, or Boldest

An investment in the community and an investment in your brand—your flagship is the physical manifestation of you as a company. It’s everything you are and everything you want your customers to feel about you.

Whether it’s your first, biggest, or most exciting location, your flagship store is meant to show off something special to customers.

Knowing this, going to a flagship is meant to be an experience. From entrance & exit displays to perimeter systems to the checkout and cash wrap area, everything about your space needs to communicate who you are and what you want your customers to feel.

What Defines a Flagship?

Deriving from nautical terms, the flagship once meant the lead ship in a fleet, referring to the most important ship in the fleet. The largest, fastest, newest, or most heavily armed, this was the most important vessel. Similarly, in retail, a flagship is meant to be the most important location.

Why Are Flagships Important?

Flagships matter for a few reasons. First, they are the hub of your retail operations. According to the Balance SMB, a flagship location is used to establish branding and merchandising, show up favorably on social media, increase brand recognition, and provide you with a place where you can generate press coverage.

Secondly, flagship stores are meant to be the best possible experience a customer may have. According to Lion’esque Group, consumers are 2.5x more likely to complete a purchase after visiting a flagship—and 75% said they were likely or very likely to purchase from a brand if they have a positive experience at one of these stores.

Building Excitement, Establishing a Home

One of the most important reasons to open a flagship store is the significance. This is an important move for a DTC brand, and it should be a celebratory time, according to Reality Interactive. Not only is the leadup to the launch going to be a time for you to build excitement among employees, it’s a time for you to reach out to press, customers, and the community.

A Brand Beacon

One more consideration when planning or working to establish your flagship location? This is going to be an establishing space for you. Though this may be your boldest location and it might include things you wouldn’t otherwise carry at a chain, the key here is to establish this location as a testing ground for future stores.

As highlighted by Reality Interactive,

“Launching a Flagship Store with all its bells and whistles can make for a bigger project than launching smaller stores within a brand. A bigger budget and increased visibility, means brands may take more time in planning for and launching a Flagship; and that’s a good thing.

If brands have an inconsistent image across locations, the Flagship Store acts as the internal focusing agent, forcing alliance and agreement.  Once opened the Flagship Store acts as a living brand guideline or style-book for retail planning in future store locations.”

Potential Drawbacks

Though the decision to open a flagship is likely going to be one of the most important steps that a DTC brand can take in their business, it’s not without risk. Opening a space is going to be a significant investment. The store is going to be sizeable and in a high traffic area (high rent). It’s going to have more traffic (more employees, more wear & tear). It’s going to require consistent updating.

Heck, it might not even get the coverage or excitement you hope. Each of these are things you need to think about—and plan around.

Making the Right Investment: Brand Experience vs. Location

Launching a flagship is an important move into the retail world. Traditional retailers have done it for years. However, as a company who has already built a brand online, you may be able to think beyond the Times Square/Gold Coast location.

Though this specific flagship is important for a brand who wants to create their most heavily-trafficked store and reward guests, more and more DTC brands are choosing their flagship on their customers.

Times Square may be the perfect space for a nationally-recognized brand, but the data and brand values may have you looking at a cool neighborhood. Miami may be great, but it might be cheaper to open a location closer to avid shoppers. Pair this with a design meant to combine style and substance, and you can make the most out of this decision.

Knowing this, it pays to invest in the space. With the right consulting, design, investment, and approach, you can provide guests with an unforgettable experience that brings them back.

Bringing Your DTC Brand In-Store with the Help of Morgan Li

At Morgan Li, we transform spaces. Whether that’s a traditional big box or a rapidly growing direct-to-consumer brand, you need a partner who knows the bricks-and-mortar space. That’s where we come in. With eight decades of experiences in retail, and some of the biggest names in DTC on our list of partners, we deliver your vision on time and on budget.

Over the past few years, Morgan Li has worked with DTC players across the nation to provide fixtures, furniture, and graphics built to provide guests with an unforgettable place to shop.

Startups and expanding brands like Brooklinen, Away, The Sill, and more have all trusted us to build unforgettable shopping experiences during their push to open physical retail spaces. Here are just some of the projects we’ve completed:


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Cash wrap and perimeter displays at Brooklinen flagship in New York City. Custom retail fixtures by Morgan Li