Purpose – Employing the qualitative method, this paper sets out to investigate the role and function of flagship stores as a market entry mechanism employed by luxury fashion retailers. Design/methodology/approach – The paper employs an interpretive research position, utilising qualitative techniques in the form of semi-structured interviews with élite informants. In total, 12 luxury fashion retailers form the empirical focus of the work. Findings – The paper identifies the defining characteristics of luxury retailers' flagship stores. It finds that luxury flagship stores represent a strategic approach to market entry that is employed to support, enhance and develop distribution activities within a foreign market. The interdependence of flagship stores and the wholesaling method of distribution is highlighted. The importance of the flagship store in reinforcing and enhancing the retailer's luxury status and enhancing and maintaining relationships not only with customers but also with distribution partners and the fashion media is found to be significant. Practical implications – The paper provides practical information to luxury retailers on the role and importance of flagship stores as a method of entering international markets. Originality/value – Flagship stores are a pivotal aspect of any luxury fashion retailer's internationalisation strategy. For the first time in the literature, the paper provides insights into their form and function and an understanding of why they are crucial to the international development of luxury retailers despite their prohibitively high cost.
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