As many fashion businesses are trying to mark a perfect balance between digital and physical distribution, one brand still stands tall as a great example of how these two distribution strategies can coexist, or better yet, build upon each other.
You guessed it, we’re speaking about Burberry and its world-famous flagship store in Regent Street, London.
Years after its inauguration, the Burberry flagship store is still a great example of a retail dimension that adds value to its brand as much as to the customer’s shopping experience.
In this post, we’re going to look at some of its key features and discuss what best practices we could be learned from this remarkable store.
With no further ado, let’s dive right into it!
A Heritage Brand “Speaking Social”
The woman behind the vision at the time of the store’s inception was at-the-time Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts. She understood that managing a heritage brand in the contemporary fashion industry poses many challenges.
Primarily, the disruption brought by digital technologies opened up the fashion market to a new generation of younger consumers who expect completely different experiences and customer journeys when they purchase luxury fashion items.
Many luxury brands initially found themselves unable to understand this challenge and downplayed the role of social shopping or omnichannel distribution.
Angela Ahrendt’s on the other hand understood that the role of social media and immersive digital experiences was something that Burberry should focus on entirely if the brand wanted to connect to a new experiential and retail dimension.
At the same time, Burberry “put on the line” the brand equity of one of the most traditional heritage British brands and had to find a way to innovate its retail vision without impacting the traditional identity of the brand.
The result of this focus is Burberry’s flagship store in Regent Street London.
This is a store like no other.
The flagship store has a unique layout and spatial design that moves past the traditional concepts of customer eye height and footfall, and – almost provocatively – even removes cashiers.
The focal element of the store’s layout is a set of sofas, where customers are invited to sit and complete their orders through a tablet. This is something that certainly sets the retail experience apart from any other store and creates a memorable and meaningful narrative around the customer’s shopping journey.
A New Way to Imagine A Store Experience
What are some of the most relevant insights that we can draw from this innovative retail dimension?
The first thing to consider is Burberry’s focus on the customer’s experience.
A flagship store should not be considered as a regular store, but as a theatre, capable of displaying to customers a much broader and immersive narrative, where the customer is the star of the show.
The success of a flagship store can’t be simply measured in terms of return on sales. A much better metric is the return on the brand’s value and equity.
A flagship store is a platform, designed to celebrate the brand and its relationship with its most important stakeholders: customers and supply chain partners.
This is why flagship stores need to be imbued with the added values of the brand’s country of origin. This is why some of the most prestigious flagship stores are comparable to tourist attractions, due to their architectural finesse and prestigious locations.
Moreover, a flagship store is a place that allows for experimentation. In a flagship store, a brand can try out new line extensions, sell new product categories, or even enter in new industries altogether, as in the case of branded cafés and restaurants.
In this sense, what Buberrry realized from the onset of this digital disruption, is that what matters for customers is the experience, and that is what a flagship store should focus on providing.
Looking into sales, or designing a store solely for transactions and conversion will not be an effective way to sell your products or to build your brand.
Education, Entertainment, Aesthetics, and Escape
What are the types of experiences that a store can provide?
Well, when it comes to designing a store the four directions that can be pursued are: education, entertainment, aesthetics, and escape.
Education. A flagship store can use the opportunity to physically connect to the customer to explain the value of a product, how to or when to wear it, or even explain operational procedures like using a brand app to complete a purchase.
Entertainment. Through displays, colorful visual merchandising, or even events a brand can attract customers into an experience with low purchase intent, but with high entertainment potential.
Aesthetics. Because of the beautiful architecture and historical locations, a store can be so beautiful to visit, that the pleasure of spending time in the location alone is reason enough to shop.
Escape. Through immersive experiences, or even through virtual or augmented reality apps a store can help customers detach briefly from their busy life and let them dive into a shopping experience that puts everything else on hold.
These experience typologies allow seeing that a flagship store does not support a brand or the customer journey, by conducting the typical functions that distribution fulfills.
A flagship store should not be designed to generate demand, your marketing plan does. A flagship store does not carry too much inventory, your warehouses do.
The focus of a flagship store is to conjugate a brand experience to the uniqueness of each individual customer, making every single experience consistent but different from the rest.
In order to achieve this result, a brand needs to make use of a variety of tools and techniques, which crossover the traditional boundaries of physical and digital distribution.
No matter the weight of your heritage or the classic look of your collection, any brand can innovate and position itself to the forefront of fashion experiences, like Burberry was able to demonstrate.
Now that we’ve touched upon all relevant points, it’s time to draw a few conclusive remarks.
There you have it! In this post, we’ve discussed the innovative approach delivered by Burberry’s flagship store in London. This flagship experience shows how heritage brands should not feel encumbered by their culture and legacy but can find ways to appeal to younger generations of customers by delivering a fashion experience that bridges the old and the new.
If you’re interested in learning more about Burberry, or about retail management in fashion, don’t hesitate to check out our blog, where we provide a wealth of information on fashion business. Enjoy!