Affordable Shopping

Reporter: Georgia Main

Inexpensive, international labels have ignited a price war Down Under. The world's three biggest chains -- Spanish brand Zara; Swedish outlet H & M and American retailer GAP - are set to crack the Australian market. Three years in the making, GAP's first Australian store is ready for business. 60 staff have been working around the clock to meet tomorrow's launch deadline and Today Tonight has been given exclusive access inside.

"Even by international standards it's one of the biggest stores", said GAP boss Stefan Leban. Stefan jetted into the country just last night and is casting a watchful eye over the retail giant's move into its 20th country. "You can expect great product, great quality and competitive pricing", Stefan said. The average price in the store is $55", is the claim from Simon Nankervis, Managing Director of Busbrand, the Aussie owner of GAP.

"I think what's really exciting about GAP is if they can keep their prices down, that's going to be a challenge for our industry here to compete with them", said Editor of fashion magazine Marie Claire, Jackie Frank. Jackie says Australian rivals Country Road and Just Jeans will be forced to keep their prices down too. "Retail is struggling in Australia. I think that's even more a case for them to be here because they'll be able to provide us with good quality, inexpensive merchandise and that's what people want at the moment", Jackie added.

While the internationals set up shop here, a piece of Australia is headed for hangers overseas. "Mambo from next year, is going to the US as well as Brazil, following that Japan", said Mambo Managing Director, Angus Kingsville. But increasing profits is no easy task. Mambo is the latest high-end label to launch a discount range here -- in department store Big W. "By doing the volumes that we can now do with Big W, we can bring our price points down without compromising on quality. People can get the same t-shirts they were buying for $50 for $20 to $30", Angus added.

General Manager of Buying for Big W, Donna Player, has now signed up designer Peter Morrisey -- the man who dressed Elle Macpherson, Kylie Minogue and Jon Bon Jovi, can now dress you. The new catwalk collection was launched today, at never before seen designer prices. . "You can dress like me for under $100", said Peter. "It's something designers do to make their names accessible and to make some money. This is a commercial venture", Jackie said. And if you do it well, the rewards are huge. GAP has an annual turnover of US$14 billion with 3,000 stores world wide and the serious piece of real estate at Melbourne's Chadstone Shopping Centre, is just the start of many. "We're going to open Sydney in October which should be fantastic. Then we plan to open 10 to 15 in the next 3 to 4 years", Stefan said.

GAP opens in Melbourne tomorrow and in Sydney late October. Sister brand, Banana Republic, is set to follow.

For details of designer labels at discount prices at Big W, visit the website at: www.bigw.com.au