* Launch to precede Canadian debut of US chain Nordstrom
* Chain to offer "great value" on designer goods
* First hr2 store to open near Montreal next March
* Holt Renfrew to expand its nine existing namesake stores
TORONTO, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Holt Renfrew, a Canadian luxury department store operator, said on Monday it would launch a lower-priced chain called hr2 in the spring, months before U.S. luxury retailer Nordstrom Inc plans to open north of the border.
The hr2 concept will offer designer goods at "great value," the closely held company said. "A new hr2 division will buy distinct merchandise for these new stores, and the product will not overlap that found in Holt Renfrew stores," it said in a statement.
Nordstrom is opening its first Canadian store in Calgary, Alberta, in the fall of 2014, and will start rolling out its lower-priced Rack outlets, with which hr2 will compete, around the same time. President Blake Nordstrom told Reuters in September that he sees the potential for more than dozen Rack locations in Canada.
The first hr2 store will open near Montreal in March 2013, and another is planned for Ontario in early 2013, with a "strong national presence" before the end of 2015, the company said.
Despite a sluggish economy, U.S. luxury chains such as Nordstrom have outperformed rivals that cater to middle and lower-income shoppers as affluent shoppers have kept spending.
But high-end retailers have also been cautious, typically expanding outlet chains rather than opening new full-service stores.
Holt Renfrew also is expanding its nine existing stores, boosting total square footage 40 percent by August 2013, the company said in September.
The chain is part of the Toronto-based Weston family's Selfridges Group Ltd. George Weston Ltd is the majority owner of Loblaw Cos Ltd, Canada's biggest grocery chain.