Flagship stores and head offices were undeniably important prior to 2019. But with so much change over the last 2 years, are flagship spaces like these still relevant and worth the business investment from brands?
The role of flagship spaces
Ultimately, flagship spaces (regardless of whether they’re being used in retail, commercial or public instances) should showcase your brand and provide a memorable experience for visitors that make it a destination people are excited to see. Typically, flagship stores and head offices are in prestigious cities that people are likely to visit anyway, for business or leisure.
Any flagship destination should represent your whole product or service range, enabling visitors to get everything they possibly can from your brand however to make it truly memorable there needs to be a unique product, experience or design that attracts visitors.
Many flagship locations are also used to try new ideas and designs before rolling them out to other locations.
Do we still need flagship stores?
During the COVID 19 pandemic, all retailers (barring supermarkets) were closed and high streets in even the busiest cities were empty. Many customers got used to shopping online which led to countless retailers closing their stores.
So with physical stores being less appealing, do we still need flagship stores?
In short, yes.
While online retail has many benefits, it cannot provide the same experience that a physical store can. The key here is the experience – which, going back to our earlier point, is the point of a flagship store in the first place.
How can flagship stores create a great customer experience?
Truthfully, retailers may need to work harder post-COVID when running a flagship store since a prime location and a sleek design simply won’t be enough to attract customers anymore. Instead, the focus should be on maximising every element of the customer experience so that it becomes a destination that fans of your brand simply can’t miss.
The design of your store should be tailored to the demographic who will be entering your space – this means that there may be some large inconsistencies in the design of your flagship store compared to other locations you have.
What do these customers value, what do they need, and how can you help them? For example, will you have lots of families who will need a place for children to play? Or will you have young adults who will appreciate photo opportunities and desirable backdrops?
You should also be looking to make the most of the boom in digital shopping by incorporating digital experiences for your users such as a digital shopping assistant or AR and VR experience zones with your products.
Remember that your flagship store should be seen as a true destination, not just your average high-street shop. So find ways to treat your customers like VIPs with exclusive products, offers, demos and, of course, experiences.
Even for those brands who have closed physical stores, a great flagship store may attract enough attention and footfall to make up for the closure of smaller locations.
Alternatively, all stores within a chain could be looking for ways to enhance the customer experience and become a flagship space of their own – at least for their local community.
Do we still need head offices?
Commercial flagship spaces like head offices also closed during the pandemic, enabling many employees to experience and adapt to remote working for the first time. This accidental experiment revealed to employers all over the world that offices, as they had been used in the past, may not be needed anymore.
Even since restrictions have been relaxed, only half of the inner-city workers that would typically be working at a larger office or headquarters around the world have returned this year.
We all know the reasons behind this, however as the novelty of remote working has worn off, office workers have made it clear there are elements that they miss about the office environment including work-life boundaries, company culture and collaboration.
This means that head offices still have their place, but they will need to change to meet the needs of a forever-changed workforce.
It’s important to remember that head offices are not just there to serve employees – they’re an investment from businesses to build strong relationships and showcase the brand to suppliers, new and existing clients as well as future talent. Head offices have the same role as flagship stores: to provide great experiences, create memories and form bonds with visitors.
How can head offices meet the needs of businesses post-COVID?
Most people still want to work from home at least on a part-time basis which means there will likely be fewer people in head offices than ever before. The space in head offices will need to be used differently with less traditional working space (e.g. desks) and more space used for collaboration, innovation and brand unity.
We completed the fit out for the new Head Office for McColl’s where we focused on bringing their working community closer than ever before by ensuring their brand identity was ingrained in every part of the space and providing multiple areas for both planned and spontaneous collaboration between colleagues, suppliers and customers.
Alongside changes to office spaces that facilitate collaboration, culture and seamless integration between home and office workers, some companies may need to consider changing the location of their office.
While pre-pandemic offices were primarily located in city centres where people could easily use short commuting methods (e.g. tubes and trams) from other offices or city outskirts, people have now left city locations to work remotely meaning they’ll be using longer-distance commuting methods to come to the office. In the long term, offices near long-distance train stations are likely to become more appealing than those located near tube stations.
Location will likely continue to be a hot topic as we navigate our way out of the pandemic. While previously, a central high-profile location has said as much about the company as anything within the office, with fewer face to face meetings happening, does the location send the same message anymore? Instead, should the backdrop of the more common virtual meetings be prioritised so that there is a clear link to the brand and its values? Companies could instead consider investing in offices in less-central (and often cheaper) locations whilst investing more in the design and technology of their office interiors.
How can flagship spaces benefit the community post-COVID?
Flagship spaces, both retail and commercial, play a big part in driving footfall to other local businesses in the same area e.g. café’s, taxies and hotels and bringing culture to these areas.
Besides the economy, the experiences that flagship spaces provide can inspire careers, activism and passion that make communities more enjoyable.
The impact of COVID-19 on flagship spaces is undeniable, and while there is still a need for them, to be successful they will need to provide a desirable experience that people can’t get anywhere else.
At Resolution Interiors, we can help you create spaces that maximise the experience and engagement for everyone using it. Get in touch to find out more.