Luxury Brands Invest In Experiential Flagship Stores To Escape Confines Of Malls

Future Thinkers
April 27, 2023
Luxury houses are building independent flagship stores in China’s top-tier cities. Can branded experiential retail help them stand out in this saturated market? Image: Hermès

Luxury brands have for decades relied on footfall at China’s high-end shopping malls to reach domestic consumers. But a shift is underway – a growing number of prestige houses is opening experiential flagships stores in the country’s top-tier cities.

“Chinese consumers are increasingly seeking shopping experiences that go beyond mere consumerism. They want originality, excitement, and a cool atmosphere for socializing and, of course, to daka 打卡 [to show you have been to places that are popular],” says Elisa Harca, co-founder and CEO at Shanghai-based marketing agency Red Ant.

Louis Vuitton’s first independent flagship store in China at Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu. Image: Louis Vuitton

In November last year, Louis Vuitton opened its first independent flagship store in China at Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu. The 1,500㎡ space offers Louis Vuitton’s full line of products. The French house also opened its first branded restaurant in China in the neighborhood. Dior has opened a three-story retail space with a terrace garden serving exclusive afternoon tea near the Louis Vuitton store.

Elsewhere, at the beginning of this year, beauty label Sisley opened its first Asia-Pacific Maison Sisley, which includes in-store coffee shops and beauty salons, in Shanghai Zhang Yuan, a complex of houses built in the late 19th century to an East-meets-West architectural style.

More such stores are in the pipeline. Louis Vuitton and Dior are in the process of building independent flagship stores in Beijing shopping and dining mecca Sanlitun, located in the heart of Chaoyang district. According to local media, Hermès plans to build an independent maison there, too.

Jing Daily uncovers what’s prompting businesses to experiment with new retail formats and analyzes how brands benefit from standalone flagships.

The challenges of operating in a mall

Standalone boutiques are commonplace in Europe’s fashion capitals Paris, London, and Milan, where brands tend to congregate in luxury districts: Rue Saint-Honoré, New Bond Street, or Via Montenapoleone.

But in China, high-end commercial complexes define China’s luxury experience. Chinese consumers are used to spending their free time in malls that offer shopping, dining, and entertainment options in one building.

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