The Art of Soulful Living

Many flagship stores are just a regular store with an abundance of space, but some though are a delight, a bliss: like the Amsterdam based 'House of Rituals'. Most flagshipstores have the same number of products are displayed more widely, fancy gadgets and irrelevant visual merchandising, finished off with huge LCD screens often cover that it's really much ado about nothing. But Rituals opened 'House of Rituals' in October to give momentum to its 20 years anniversary and the aim was quite ambitious: to transcend from a cosmetics brand into the art of soulful living. Let's take tour.

Flagship: the ship that carries the commander of a fleet or subdivision of a fleet and flies the commander's flag…..

First some specs on flagship stores. For once, it's a very expensive hobby. Retailers aren't building these kind of stores out of economic reasons. No sane leader is able to rationalise the rent, staff costs and expenditures going into the project. A return rate of less than five years is impossible. So why then build and open one?

The rise of flagship stores has a one-on-one relation with the use of the term "retail experience". If you are or want to be the market leader, a flagship store is default for 'success'. Retail leaders often operate a brand which has far more opportunity and possiblity than shown in their regular network or an ad. Just a large store or even the most exciting and creative website isn't able to showcase the full potential. For most retailers flagships are a marketing instrument, a sort of 3D advertising campaign, a physical showcase. “Just visit our flagship store and we'll show you that we are more than our products”. 

Just a handful of retailers go the extra mile and use a flagship store as an innovation lab. They are aware that product innovation is the most important key to differentiate from the pack. When scarce space in the regular network is being traded for “the next big thing” the stakes are high. NPD is a risky proces. Before you know it, you’ve lost solid revenues for new products gathering dust.  Enter the flagship store, where you can test and do live research as much as you can.

I first learned about flagship stores when Nike Town was introduced in London. Back in the beginning of the century. A few years later the Apple Store on the corner of Central Park in NYC, impressed me. Not just because of the glass stairs Steve Jobs personally designed.  I’ve seen many since. I’ve liked the Muji flagship in Chengdu, because it completely merges with the feel of the surrounding mall Taiko-Lee. The new Nike House of Innovation in Paris was not that good, the digital walls and floors and loud music add to the experience, but on a product level I could hardly notice any new merchandise or services. Lush in London was great, because it showcased numerous exciting product demonstrations. And the Microsoft store, just a few blocks around the corner, was great because of the many game rooms. In Shanghai I visited Starbucks Reserve Roastery, just as attractive as the one in NYC, with all the different coffee concepts and the roaster, in a great architecture. The Restoration Hardware store in NYC is a bit of a disappointment, it’s just a lot of meters with opulent furniture in a gigantic building. Its restaurant though, overlooking Meatpacking District, makes it worth a visit.

Rituals just opened its first flagship in Amsterdam. This impressive store really ticks all the boxes a flagship should have:

  • Its sheer size: this store is 1,900 M2 with 4 floors, almost 20 times the size of a regular one.
  • A landmark building, smack in the middle of Amsterdam's main shopping streets. Esprit used to operate the building back in their hay days.
  • New products: 600 new items have been developed, even complete new categories like umbrella’s, towels, bed linen and travel items. These items can also be bought online as the premium collection.
  • The leading idea behind current Rituals stores, where all product lines are regularly displayed in cabinets, is completely abandoned. Presentation tables and great visual merchandising experiments are loosely scattered in the lay out. Which adds to the department store feel.
  • The store has some really cool “personalized” options for customers: fragrances for example, for which you’ll first need to answer some questions and consequently the mix will be made upon your preferences. If you buy specific items like towels you’ll be able to have a name or a message being embroidered.
  • There is even a mind and yoga spa, which opens in spring 2021, where customers can really indulge in Rituals' mantra: the art of soulful living. So this store really is both about products and services.
  • Restaurant Rouhi is combining beauty and food, with Asian signature dishes. There is no such thing as a great flagship store without a great dining option.
  • The design and the architecture of the store really stands out, it’s very bespoke, colorful and cosy at the same time, though convenience space (wide alleys) is sometimes a bit lacking.
  • You'll find some funny and entertaining digital applications, like a giant LCD billboard for trying out umbrellas. But always perfectly in sync with the store concept, not overdone.

Founder and CEO Raymond Cloosterman hopes to offer a holistic experience: where you can buy Rituals product, enjoy a spa or a yoga lesson and dine afterwards. He call this: "the art of soulful living". This approach differentiates Rituals from the pack of brands opting for mindfulness, which is a really crowded place now. Cloosterman aims to take Rituals from a leading cosmetics brand into a community of followers. With this store he’s definitely succeeded in doing so, a retail gem for Amsterdam.

House of Rituals video with a tour by Cloosterman himself.

Address: Spui 10, Amsterdam. opens daily until 19:00