Flagship stores reap benefits from tourist traffic

Retail Digital takes a close look at how retailers are using their flagship stores to create new and interesting retail experiences
 M&M London Flagship

Written by: Adam Bruk, Sunglass Warehouse


The idea behind creating a flagship store is to create a unique experience for customers that cannot be found anywhere else. The store is usually located in a major city where tourists flock to. One of the goals a company has for their flagship store is to be a stop on tours of the city. When they are considered a stop on a tour route, they substantially increase their traffic.

Tourists are known for spending money on vacations, since they rarely get to experience the city they are visiting. Consequently, they will be inclined to purchase merchandise and souvenirs unique to the flagship stores, which is a key source of revenue for companies making the investment in the store.

Another key reason for making a large investment in a flagship store is to help build the brand. It is difficult for a brand to interact with its customers, but a flagship store helps to achieve this goal. The success of this business model can be seen with the phenomenal success of the M&M store in Times Square in New York City.

M&Ms are a well known product. However, the way the company has shined as being different from the thousands of candies in the marketplace is through strong brand awareness. The M&M Store allows travelers to experience the brand in a novel way. Customers can interact and take photos with giant M&M characters and play various games in-store. 

M&M recently opened up a 35,000 square foot four-storey store in London, making it the largest candy store in the world. The company’s aim was to create a fun, energetic atmosphere to attract local residents and tourists to its stores. The new store features seven feet statues of M&M’s characters and an iconic 1963 London double-decker bus with large interactive screens. In the centre of the flagship store is a custom-made M&M union jack flag and sweeping red staircase, which is lit up by a multi-coloured M&M’s chandelier. The store features life-size replicas of the different characters of the M&M brand.

The M&M brand is a prime example of how retailers are adding entertainment and interactive experiences to the retail mix. The trend, dubbed retail-tainment, started a number of years ago but has become increasingly popular during the economic downturn. Retailers are increasingly looking for new and creative ways to entice consumer’s in-store.  

Retail Digital looks at five of the most successful flagship stores in New York City.


Hershey’s attracts millions of tourists to its flagship store which stocks every Hershey’s product available for purchase. The Hershey’s flagship has hundreds, if not thousands, of different varieties and quantities of its different brands. It also has different merchandise and souvenirs available, some of which can only be purchased at the flagship store. The huge store and big LED sign above it cannot be missed in the brightly lit Times Square and really catches people’s attention. The unique product offerings and merchandise available solely at that store helps to increase traffic.


Most people know of the huge Macy’s Day parade that is held every Thanksgiving that runs through Manhattan. For awhile, the Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan was the largest store in the world and everyone wanted to shop there. This was its main selling point for generating more traffic through the store. Additionally, while the prices are slightly higher at the flagship store, it has a huge selection and great sales which also attracts tourists who want to do a little shopping while in the big apple. Who wouldn’t want to brag about the deal they found on a nice shirt at the world’s largest store?

Apple’s glass cube

Every time one passes by Apple’s glass cube on 5th avenue in midtown, you will see people taking pictures outside of it. When you enter the big glass cube, you walk downstairs where the store is underground. Open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, tourists frequently visit the cube to see the magnificent architecture and look at Apple’s newest products.  Designing a masterpiece that people will want to see and take pictures of is the approach Apple took to increasing traffic through its flagship store.

FAO Schwarz

This could possibly be the best toy store ever. Located on 5th Avenue, this huge store has almost every toy you can imagine. People spend hours in the store and the company generates traffic by inviting people for a unique experience they can only get at this location. The store features a giant piano on the floor, which was made famous by Tom Hanks in Big. 

Disney’s Times Square location

The Disney store in Times Square is enormous and has memorabilia and merchandise from every Disney movie and show you can think of. If you can think of a product that is related to Disney, it can be found at this store. Tourists frequently stop in to see the magnificent store and pick up souvenirs. The enormous selection and interactive activities really help drive traffic through the store.


These stores have generated traffic by offering customers a unique experience. If there isn’t anything unique about a store, why would customers spend their valuable vacation time there when they can visit the same store at home? Offering memorabilia and products that are available only at the flagship stores also draws in more customers. People are intrigued by things that are different. Whether it is by design (Apple) or by having the biggest store in the world (Macys), it’s the experience of trying something new and rare that draws customers to a store.

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