Launceston grows in fashion stakes

LEADING fashion label Country Road looks set to open in Launceston as national brands clamour for a slice of CBD retail action.

Fashion sources say Country Road will soon open at the former Chickenfeed site at the corner of Charles and Brisbane streets.

Country Road had a store across the road, at what is now Jeanswest, but departed the city in the mid-1980s.

Sources say the store could end up being a combination of Country Road brands under the one roof.

The Country Road Group operates Country Road, Mimco, Trenery and Witchery stores across Australia.

Last month  the business announced a record net profit of $37.95 million for the six months to December 28, attributed in part to growth in store numbers.

The former Chickenfeed site has been leased by commercial real estate agents Shepherd & Heap, after the discount retailer vacated the site in 2012.

Shepherd & Heap director Blake Shepherd said yesterday that an extremely popular Australia-wide brand would move in but he would not confirm that it was Country Road.

Mr Shepherd said extensive renovations were under way and it could be a few months before the store opened.

He said his firm had also just leased the former OPSM store in the Brisbane Street Mall (next to Portmans) to ``a popular national clothing retailer'', but again he would not give the name.

Also, 93 Brisbane Street in The Avenue was last week leased to the Shaver Shop, a specialist personal grooming retailer.

Mr Shepherd said national retailers were lining up for central city locations - with two other companies competing for the mall site.

``The former OPSM site was leased after a very short time on the market,'' he said.

``We have experienced strong uptake in the central business district.''

The complexity of the Chickenfeed site negotiations meant it was  vacant for longer than usual.

  The fashion source said that as welcome as Country Road was, Launceston would probably never reach the exclusive heights of Melbourne.

There, the arrival of Zara had people lining up to get a look, but the high-end Spanish design house was unlikely to cross Bass Strait.

For Launceston's retail appeal to really boom, the fashion source said staff would need to learn more about top-class customer service.

Launceston Chamber of Commerce executive officer Maree Tetlow said Country Road would be another fashion anchor for the city, and would add to the choice of national brands and independent specialty boutiques.

``That corner of town needs some sprucing up,'' she said, referring to the western end of Brisbane Street.

``It will make it more of a precinct for upmarket clothing.''

Cityprom executive officer Vanessa Cahoon said Country Road would add to the string of recent retail arrivals.

``Ten years ago you had to travel outside Tasmania to access some of these national brands,'' she said.

``Now, our position as a regional shopping hub for Northern Tasmania is strengthened.

``There will be more choice and reason for people to shop in the city centre.''

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