Time right for Longines’ second Australian store

Tracey Peng, left, and Min Ye at Longines boutique in Sydney’s QVB. Picture: James Croucher.
Tracey Peng, left, and Min Ye at Longines boutique in Sydney’s QVB. Picture: James Croucher.

Global luxury watch brand Longines is set to open its second Australian boutique despite headwinds facing the retail sector that have seen a wave of less prestigious labels close their doors. 

The Swatch Group-owned brand, which is sold in several jewellery stores around the country, will open a flagship store on Melbourne’s Collins Stt, taking a 10-year lease in a building next to the up-market St Collins Lane mall.

The retailer was initially hesitant to commit to the store, but the landlord wooed the new tenant with an offer to replace and repaint the building’s facade to meet their requirements — a process that could become more common as prospective tenants face shrinking options on the grand boulevard.

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The plans come amid worries for the broader retail sector, as consumers worry about rising living costs and weak wages growth, or shift to shopping online.

In recent weeks, local women’s wear brand Metalicus collapsed into voluntary administration, while global fashion label Esprit said it would close in Australia after recording years of losses.

Over the past two years several chains have gone into administration or failed, including Topshop, Marcs, David Lawrence, Herringbone and Rhodes & Beckett.

Even so, international luxury retailers have still been expanding in Australia’s east coast capitals, eyeing demand from wealthy tourists and cashed-up locals.

The Longines deal was brokered by CBRE’s Zelman Ainsworth and Tan Thach, who offered a creative solution after the tenant initially turned down the property. The building offers 148sqm of ground floor retail space and 138sqm in the basement, although the tenant will trade on the ground floor only.

The agents worked with architecture firm Metier3 and the landlord — listed on title deeds as Julie and Dennis Li — on a plan to modify the building to meet the tenant’s standards, winning council and heritage approval.

The awnings will be removed, the facade replaced and repainted, and upward-facing lighting will be added to fit better with the luxury brand’s identity.

Ainsworth says other landlords could take a similar approach, as exacting tenants face limited options in the tight Collins St strip that has seen space snapped up by Gucci, Versace, Bottega Veneta, Berluti, Fendi and Cartier.

“There’s a lot of detail that went into understanding both Longines’ brand and the ideas of council — bringing those two ideas together and creating something that will work for the landscape of Collins Street,” Ainsworth told The Australian.

“We are working with landlords who have upcoming vacancies in the next 12 to 24 months on different ways to reposition the real estate to attract global or major local retailers, and using architects and heritage consultants.”

There were “endless opportunities” for landlords to reposition their buildings to suit a changing retail market.

“People are panicking, thinking bricks and mortar is a thing of the past … However, we are of the view that retail is changing for the better,” he says.

This article originally appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au/property.