San Francisco Flagship Stores Lead Way for Retail

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December 7, 2016

By: Ben Lazzareschi, Executive Vice President, JLL Retail

A flagship is a lead ship guiding a fleet, and today flagship stores act similarly for a retailer guiding their store portfolio with innovative concepts, technology and merchandise.  JLL’s latest research report Flagship Confidential, shows an increase in retailers across all price points using a flagship store strategy. The report, which looks at 145 flagship stores in four of the most important markets of the country, includes analysis of San Francisco’s flagship status.

Walkability to flagship stores

We view San Francisco as one of the leading flagship markets on the West Coast. The city is unique, however, in how compact it is in terms of flagships, compared with the other cities in our study.  Nearly all of San Francisco’s flagship stores are within easy walking distance of each other in Union Square or its immediate vicinity.

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San Francisco’s flagship stores include Sephora at 33 Powell Street where bright, sleek space includes a Beauty Workshop where shoppers can receive free makeup tutorials and even classes.  Sephora’s store also houses interactive fragrance, color and skincare IQ stations to guide shoppers to the right products according to things like personal preference and skin type.  Brooks Brothers’ flagship at 240 Post Street is its second largest store in the country and features a “gentleman’s lounge” where shoppers can get custom tailoring, grab a coffee or shoot a game of pool.  Other San Francisco flagship locations include the Nike store at 278 Post Street, nearby Apple store at 300 Post Street and Banana Republic at 256 Grant Avenue.

Flagship stores meet hospitality

Increasingly, consumers patronizing luxury and luxury lite flagships are yearning for ultra-personalized in-store experiences that deliver a one-on-one connection to shoppers,” says Chris Roe of Big Red Rooster, an Ohio-based experiential design subsidiary acquired by JLL last year.  Luxury and luxury lite stores studied in the full report also had a direct correlation to having the highest concentration of hospitality and wellness features, like restaurants, cafes, coffee bars and VIP rooms with high-touch hospitality service.


Reinforcing the high-end brand positioning of flagship stores is the detail spent on the store itself.  “Flagship stores typically have unique architectural elements and dramatic interior designs,” says Jacqueline Dompe, head of JLL Northwest construction management, who retailers and other clients trust to ensure they achieve their broader ambitions and business goals.  “Certain characteristics are more commonly found within specific price point groups like luxury or discount, but we expect that flagship features will become more common along all points within the price spectrum,” she adds.  That means costs can be steep for retailers since San Francisco is the second highest construction cost market in the country, according to research just released by JLL, First Look: Q3 2016 U.S. Construction Outlook.


While San Francisco’s status as a flagship retail location isn’t quite to the level of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles yet, especially in the number of flagship stores, San Francisco does stand out in at least one category in the JLL report: sustainability.

“San Francisco played a leading role in the sustainability movement and this has clearly spread into the retail sector,” says Sonia Greenlee, Senior Vice President and LEED AP who leads JLL’s Northwest hotel construction management division.  “Levi’s Market Street store earned its LEED certification through the use of reclaimed wood from the city’s piers and Nike at 278 Post Street is LEED Gold certified and uses reclaimed wooden bleachers from a torn-down high school in St. Louis,” she points out.

Read more in our recently released Flagship Confidential report.

About the author:

ben-lazzareschi-flagship-storesBen is an Executive Vice President with JLL retail brokerage, specializing in urban landlord and retailer representation in San Francisco and selected suburban markets. He serves as a trusted advisor for owners of commercial properties providing senior level direction on retail strategy, merchandising, leasing and repositioning.  In addition, Ben represents best in class retailers in their market expansion and development efforts.

Contact Ben directly by phone at +1 (415) 228-3070 or via email at






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