My Itinerary

In good company: Launceston Sport & Surf

A note on In good company

In good company is a series of interviews undertaken with local small business owners and their employees to help the public learn more about their favourite Launnie businesses, how they came to be and what drives them. They're usually posted to our social media first, and those posts will always be linked so that you can share them if you'd like to. So settle in & scroll on to hear tales from beyond the counter, and maybe even discover somewhere completely new... Wherever these interviews lead you, we're sure you'll find yourself In good company.

- The Launceston Central team

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Launceston Sport & Surf

For more than 40 years, Launceston Sport and Surf has been supplying locals with everything they need to embrace the great outdoors in style. The St John Street shop is one of Australia’s largest locally owned surf stores, stocking a ripper range of adventure clothing and gear from the best brands in the biz. 

“Particularly through January, we get a lot of international visitors into the shop and people are always asking, ‘Where are your other outlets in Melbourne and Sydney?’,” says owner Amanda Gutwein-Burke, better known to locals as Mandy or Mands. “It’s just us. We’re an independent single store, and that’s fairly unique.”

Mandy was wrapped to take on the business in December of 2022, having fallen in love with retail during her time as owner of Inside Home and Gifts. 

“I stayed there for 3 years, we got through COVID and then I moved out of that so I could focus on family,” she says. “Then Launceston Sport and Surf came up as an opportunity. It’s such an icon in Launceston and having teenage children, it just worked for our family.

“As a customer of Launceston Sport and Surf for decades, it was nice to put on another hat and look at it from new perspectives.”

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The store underwent an exciting interior renovation in 2023: the counter space and change rooms were redeveloped, and the upstairs ski hire workshop transformed into a groovy surf hub where avid and novice surfers can pick up surfboards, accessories, wetsuits, and more. 

“I love the response from people who haven’t been in before or for a while, and they say, ‘Oh gosh, look at all this!’” Mandy says. “That ‘wow’ moment is really satisfying.” 

To ensure the renos were effective, Mandy kept an open dialogue with customers along the way. 

“We waited a little while to make sure we had the right mix of engagement with our customers and other visitors in the store to ensure the store flowed as one whole business,” she says. “Our customer experience in store is really important to us. It’s reassuring that customers can come here and find what they need, and have the support to find it.

“Our team seem a lot happier operating in the space.”

The friendly staff at Launceston Sport and Surf vary in age and experience, from Steven, who recently celebrated his 40-year anniversary at the store, to students learning the ropes. 

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“Steve’s an enormous asset,” Mandy says. “And we have other team members that are part of our journey while they’re building their own worlds, whether it be while they’re at university or at school. 

“Being part of somebody’s first job is really significant, because you never forget your first job. So it’s lovely to be able to nurture those young people to appreciate business workings. Because we’re small – large but small – our staff get to see the operational aspects of a business they might not see elsewhere.” 

Mandy says that together, the people at Launceston Sport and Surf are its biggest asset.

“We had a training night one evening and were working out who’d worked in retail, where they’d come from and their different experiences,” Mandy says. “Collectively, we had about 60 years of experience, which is pretty epic.”

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Another major drawcard for Launceston Sport & Surf is its vast product range, which brings people of all shapes, sizes, ages and interests through the door. (The shop’s customer base even spans generations – Steve’s fitted shoes for kids of customers who came in when they were little!) 

“The fact we’ve got such an enormous collection of brands in one building is pretty unique,” Mandy says. “It means our customers could be here for sports shoes, they could be here for Blundstones, they could be here for thongs – and that’s just footwear. 

“Some customers have never considered surfing, but they come into the surf space and say, ‘That’s really interesting’. So the shop sort of immerses them in other opportunities.”

Matching people to product is, for Mandy, one of the most compelling parts of the job. 

“It's a complex thing trying to understand your customer base because it’s forever changing, but it’s nice to be able to go along to buying sessions and think about which customers are going to like which products, and then trying to guess sizes and styles and volumes and all of that. It keeps it interesting.”

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What Mandy likes best about retail, though, is the people.

“I had such a warm experience when was at Inside Home and Gifts, being part of the Launceston retail community. That was a big reason for me returning into that community of retailers and business people in the CBD and beyond,” she says.

“It's funny – we have visitors come from the northern island and they often joke, ‘Are you on a commission scheme in Launceston?’ because we send customers to one another’s businesses. We’ll send people up to Allgoods, for example, and they’ll come back and say, they did have what I wanted, but then they said to come back here for something else. 

“We have a really positive and encouraging relationship with our neighbours. And that’s really nice.”

From championing other local businesses to sponsoring local sports teams and events, Launceston Sport and Surf’s active role in the community is a big reason why locals love to shop here. 

“We of course compete with online outlets who don’t have the same overheads,” Mandy says. “So are most grateful that we have our locals supporting us and shopping with us.” 

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Launceston (and the slice of Tassie between here and Bridport) has always been home to Mandy – a family-friendly village full of history and charm, that also happens to boast a cracking collection of shops. 

“It’s a wonderful place for families to raise children,” she says. “I love the Gorge, I love our history – the old buildings and gardens. I still go to Inside Home and Gifts for food and gifts. I think we’ve got a really great range of shops.” 

The Victorian-era structure housing Launceston Sport & Surf forms a big part of the shop’s character.  

“It’s a grand old girl,” Mandy says admiringly. “I think it’s nice to be a part of a story that’s so much bigger than just now.” 

What’s in store for 2024? The Launceston Sport and Surf team plans to consolidate and enjoy their achievements over the last 12 months and take some time to reflect before pursuing further growth. 

“It’s ok to do that,” Mandy says, “to take time to reflect and ensure that we’ve got our product mix right, check in with our customers, really pay attention and listen to their feedback and habits, and understand what they want moving forward.” 

📍 Find Launceston Sport & Surf at 40 St John Street, Launceston. 

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