Flagship Stores – It’s not all about size!

If you take branding and customer engagement seriously, irrespective of your industry, you should take half a day away from your desk to refresh your own ideas and practices of “Know Your Customer”, courtesy of some of the world’s leading brands.

Pandora – It was the headlines around this store opening that grabbed my initial attention, “the world’s largest Pandora store opens on Oxford Street”. On first impression I was totally underwhelmed it was small and white, very white. The upstairs space was for private showings and launch parties only, so I never saw it; all in all this was a real anti climax.

This is the brand that has done so much to revive interest in Jewellery – it’s price points and collectable proposition has made it a household name and is the answer to “what do I get her” for every boy friend, partner, husband, brother, sister, parent and grand parent for her special moments. Surely there had to be something other than it being “white, very white”.

Beads are small and don’t require much space to display, there were a couple of touch and feel displays and a wall mounted flat screen but otherwise everything was behind glass. Customers know the brand, they know what to expect and very often they even know the design and product code, which has been circled for them in a catalogue. They browse the trays quickly and logically looking for a bead that they can gift, they may even buy one for themselves on impulse and apparently the tourists are buying the London Bus bead. The staff is there to take your money and when required help you find what you couldn’t – simple give your customers what they want and they’ll keep coming back.


The Apple experience is built around touch and play. You are encouraged and supported with various walk up and join training groups, or you can listen in on tutorials, or watch “how to presentations”, you can even book an appointment to see an expert at the Genius bar with your previously bought bit of kit. If you just want a new charger it’s on the wall help yourself and pay on the way out. The staff and there are lots of them, all clearly visible in their blue shirts can dumb down or geek up depending on who they are helping.

Apple help you discover what their products can do, build your usage confidence, reassure you about your purchase and importantly creates a brand ambassador.

Burberry Regent Street is an international, destination store, so no need for over sized signage or bright lights, those who know, know where to go and what to expect when they get there.

The staff head to toe in trendy black with strap on ipads and plug in ear pieces are welcoming, security are pleasant in their acknowledgement of your presence; as you wander the rooms and floors that spoke out from the floor to ceiling video screen that inspires, with the brand’s design, heritage and cat walk style, even this seemed as unobtrusive as the staff. Staff who in their approachable manner offer you privacy, refreshment and a personalised service – Burberry exclusive and discreet just what the customer expects.

I’ve been in Hollister stores before but always with my teenage kids and with the sole purpose of paying but never on my own… the frontage and interior always remind me of a New Orleans bordello as seen on Bonds films of course but on Regent Street no such thing – behind each window was a window on the surf conditions in Sydney and LA – this is after all the A&F take on surf wear.

Tripping through the dimly lit rooms to James Blunt, I had no idea if I was in a club, bar, shop or New Orleans. I sought sanctuary on the upper landing with the other seated parents, as streams of Chloes and Harrys dumped armfuls of items on laps and disappeared back into the darkness texting about the Hollister “hotties and fitties”. Leaving us to agree we just don’t get it, too dark, too loud, disorientating and you don’t know how much your paying until your at the till… but that’s just it adults, grown ups, parents whatever we’re called in Hollister are not the target customer – the kids are and they know what they want and they deliver it really well. Though next time I go, it’ll be with my kids.

Since 2013 I have been helping ambitious SMEs with their Strategic and Leadership challenges.

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