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Watchmaker Longines’ time has come for Collins Street

May 16, 2018

Swiss watchmaker Longines will lease this space at 256 Collins Street on a five-year deal worth $750,000 a year. Photo: Supplied

Legendary Swiss watchmaker Longines has chosen Melbourne’s Collins Street as the location for its flagship Australian store.

Longines, which is part of the Swatch Group, has a struck a $750,000-a-year leasing deal to occupy 256 Collins Street, a narrow, four-storey 1950s building next door to luxury mall St Collins Lane.

The 10-year leasing deal to occupy 148 square metres of ground retail space and 138 sq m of basement space was negotiated with the Li family, who have owned the building since 2001.

Originally, Longines had turned down the opportunity to lease the space, which became vacant following the collapse of retailer Marcs in early 2017, because it did not meet with its global store standards.

However, a deal was struck recently after the landlords, working with leasing agents CBRE and architecture firm Meiter 3 came up with a plan to restore the building’s 1950s heritage facade. This received planning approval in February.

Owner Jonathan Li said the family was delighted with the outcome after what had been a “long and drawn out process”.

“Not only were CBRE able to identify the potential of the building but they have been able to realise it,” Mr Li said.

“The key thing was to position it so that attracted the right kind of tenant – like Longines,” he added.

The new store is expected to open in about October following restoration work. It will sit next to luxury brands Coach and Tag Heuer and across the road from the new Burberry store at 257 Collins Street, part of a wave of luxury retailers including Gucci, Versace and Fendi that continue to seek space on Collins Street

The leasing deal was negotiated by Zelman Ainsworth and Tan Thach of CBRE.

Mr Ainsworth said there are more opportunities than ever for landlords to work with retailers to reposition their properties and stay relevant.

“There are endless opportunities for landlords to reposition their real estate to ensure their properties suit a changing retail market,” he said.

“People are panicking, thinking bricks and mortar is a thing of the past and retail rents will diminish. However, we are of the view that retail is changing for the better and there is only upside for landlords. And while online enhances the retail experience, it all starts in the bricks and mortar store.”

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