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How Flagship Stores Are Setting The Pace For The Retail Experience

Flagship stores are increasingly becoming more popular among retailers looking to offer customers more than just shopping. Flagships are often the finest and largest stores for retailers and provide an example to smaller chain stores. Each offers different experiences depending on the market.

Flagship Stores: A Unique Experience


JLL recently showcased flagship stores in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco in its Flagship Confidential report and analyzed the unique experiences these stores offer shoppers.

"Flagship stores typically have unique architectural elements and dramatic interior designs," JLL Northwest construction management head Jacqueline Dompe says. "Certain characteristics are more commonly found within specific price point groups like luxury or discount, but we expect that flagship features will become more common along all points within the price spectrum."

Flagship stores set an example for other retailers through offering unique, luxury shopping experiences. New York is dominated by luxury flagships that cater to wealthy shoppers offering invite-only VIP suites, private fitting rooms, lounges and salons, according to JLL's study. San Francisco's flagships have a heavy focus on sustainability and offer a more creative design.


JLL EVP, retail Ben Lazzareschi tells us retailers see San Francisco as a potential location for flagships because it’s an “internationally recognized and internationally visited city.”

Ben says those looking at flagship concept stores are attracted to San Francisco's tech and innovation.

While New York’s Fifth Avenue has some of the largest flagships of North American retailers, San Francisco flagships are on the smaller side, but stores are more creatively designed and reflect the historical buildings they occupy.

San Francisco's Flagship Stores


San Francisco's flagships also have among the highest levels of sustainability.

“San Francisco plays a leading role in the sustainability movement and this has clearly spread to the retail sector,” JLL Northwest SVP Sonia Greenlee says.

Levi’s store is LEED certified and used reclaimed wood from the city’s piers. Nike at 278 Powell St (above) is LEED Gold certified and used reclaimed wooden bleachers from a demolished high school in St. Louis, Sonia says.

Ben says retailers do their research to find out where their customers are and which markets would best serve them when planning flagships. They look at online sales, customer demographics and the psychographics of the market. He says retailers often use flagships more to promote the brand.

“While flagships may not be the most profitable store, they will be the most impactful and compelling statement for the retailer,” Ben says.

All of San Francisco’s flagship stores are in the expensive Union Square neighborhood and that’s not a coincidence. Ben says Union Square is the “most heavily trafficked and most densely luxury retail market in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Ben says he expects the San Francisco Bay Area to see more concept flagship stores in the future.

Take a look below at San Francisco's flagship stores recently highlighted in JLL's Flagship Confidential report.



Apple's new Union Square flagship store uses 100% renewable energy and offers more of an open design than a traditional store. The rectangular building is made of glass and steel with 42-foot-tall patio doors at its face, reports Time. The store is meant for customers not to just shop, but to hang out and listen to music. Aspiring startups and entrepreneurs can meet up in the store's "boardroom." Apple Retail VP Angela Ahrendts told Time this new store reflects Apple's "overreaching vision of the future of Apple retail."



Sephora’s flagship store at 33 Powell St is the company’s fifth-largest store at 8,500 SF. Sephora wasn’t always at this location. It moved from 17k SF at 1 Stockton St in 2013 to its current, smaller location. The shop offers a Beauty Workshop where shoppers can receive free makeup tutorials and classes. The store also offers Fragrance IQ, Color IQ and Skincare IQ stations with interactive screens, according to JLL’s Flagship Confidential report.



At Nike’s flagship store at 278 Post St shoppers can pose for photos featured on Nike-branded images. Alongside the escalators is an art installation with reclaimed wooden bleachers. A multi-colored hanging installation is on the second floor. Nike closed the 50k SF store in 2012 for a $20M renovation and reopened it in 2013.

Brooks Brothers


Brooks Brothers’ second-largest store at 240 Post St offers a gentleman’s lounge with custom tailoring, a Nespresso bar and pool tables. The four-story, 26k SF store opened in 2013 and mirrors some of the same design elements as its New York City store at 346 Madison Ave with pale cherry wood on the first floor. The women’s section has white paneling and marble floors.

Banana Republic


Banana Republic rolled out its new flagship store at 256 Grant in 2014 under the direction of creative director and EVP Marissa Webb. The flagship store boasts a creative display dubbed Room 7 to feature third-party vendor candles and decor and to showcase new designs. This flagship store aims to offer a boutique experience with expansive merchandise.