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Celebrating Brand Heritage in Luxury Flagships

It’s no secret. Brick & mortar players must fight harder than ever to make it in the intensely competitive game that is physical retail. In addition to the challenge of delivering unique experiences to compete with the online channel, luxury retailers must also justify an ultra-premium price point.

Best in class luxury retailers are achieving this by operating their fleet of stores—particularly flagship stores—as a stage for inspiring an aspirational lifestyle.

Burberry is a clear winner. The brand’s flagship in the heart of Seoul’s elegant Cheongdam-dong district tells the brand’s story through a multi-level journey. On the first-floor, busts of famous British monarchs and famed literati flank the iconic Burberry plaid, paying tribute to the brand’s heritage. The upper levels are noticeably more contemporary in their integration of multimedia displays in product presentation.

Down the street is the Dior flagship store, designed by renowned French architect Christian de Portzamparc. The flagship’s interior celebrates the label’s French origins by merchandising product in front of images of Versailles. Sparkling high jewelry is brought to life in a case that mimics a fabulous French salon. One is left wondering when Marie Antoinette is due to arrive for her afternoon champagne and gâteau.

In another pocket of Seoul, K-beauty phenom Sulwhasoo exhibits limited edition compacts released each year along with descriptions of how Korean tradition and culture are woven into the creation of each piece. Talk about a curated, museum-like experience.

Approximately 6,868 miles away in New York City, the Cartier flagship on Fifth Avenue is a monument to the history of both Cartier and the mansion.

On the first floor of the four-story monolith a large portrait of Maisie Caldwell Plant keeps watch over what used to be her home. For those unfamiliar, her wealthy husband accepted $100 and a pearl necklace from the jewelry house in exchange for the high-street home.

The second-floor transports customers to a bygone era in the Grace Kelly Salon where important pieces once graced by the princess during her glamorous life are on full display.

Is drawing so much attention to the past smart? We think so. In today’s hyper-competitive environment, a storied heritage can only serve to help differentiate a brand that is rich in history from players with less historical ties.

And while a Burberry scarf or a Cartier engagement ring may not make you royalty, you may feel that way—if only for a second—at one of these experiential flagships.


McMillanDoolittle is a premier international retail consultancy bringing deep experience with world class clients. Our partners have extensive experience interpreting the retail marketplace and converting insights into successful strategies. We help clients develop innovative solutions in strategy development, the customer experience, new concepts, brand performance, retail performance improvement and retail intelligence services.

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