Flagship is a naval term meaning the vessel on which the senior officer commanding a formation of ships has made his seaborne headquarters. A “flag officer” (typically an admiral) has a distinctive flag that flies from the mast of his command vessel so that it is clear to all which ship in the fleet is his “flagship.” It is often, but not necessarily, the largest of the ships under his command. American English being rich in metaphors and neologisms, flagship soon became jargon for a retailer’s home store—usually the first or primary store and often the location of corporate headquarters. Because every brand wants every customer to see it as (to use another neologism) a BFF wherever the customer is located, brands were soon launching flagships all over. In time, we have seen the term applied to any store carrying all, or nearly all, product lines available under a brand—or simply its largest store in a given city.
So what does flagship mean today? After careful analysis of market conditions, lexographic innovations and the synchronicity between industry slang and nautical terminology, we hereby offer a revised definition: A flagship is any retail door big enough to have a Nespresso machine in the break room.
So now we know.
Credit: Alan Behr
Photo Credit: Richard Brown (Own work) (Wikimedia Commons)