By Craig Patterson
Value-priced large-format French sporting goods retail chain Decathlon has opened its first Canadian location at Mail Champlain in Brossard, just outside of Montreal. The store is larger than originally anticipated at an impressive 60,000 square feet, and it’s also a highly experiential space where customers can try out various products.
The store’s opening weekend was a busy one — there were lineups to get into the store and sales were said to be brisk. Decathlon’s products are priced lower than at many competitors, and quality is said to be exceptional. The store carries about 6,500 private label goods for 65 sports, which differentiates the retailer from local competitors as well as Decathlon’s European stores, which typically also carry other brands. Given its pricing and overall strategy, some are referring to Decathlon as the ‘Ikea’ of sports retailers, while others compare it to efficient private-label dominant German grocery chain Aldi.
The Brossard store is highly experiential, with areas dedicated to testing out different products. Included are aisles to test bikes and skateboards, a climbing wall, badminton court, basketball court, putting green, a gym, and even a pool of water to test fishing rods and lures, as well as a mini-pool to try out paddle boards. Customers are saying that it’s a fun experience.
Decathlon designs, manufactures and distributes a wide range of sports-related equipment and accessories, with over 20 in-house ‘passion brands’ dedicated to different sports, each with its own design team. The company also utilizes customer feedback as part of its research and development and each year, Decathlon’s ‘SportsLab’ creates more than 2,800 new products.
Technological innovations can be found throughout. One unique feature is the RFID tags on items, which means cashiers aren’t required to scan bar codes on each item when paying for goods. Another is Valtech’s virtual reality experience that allows shoppers to view a selection of more than 200 tents ‘in the outdoors’ through VR goggles.
There’s also an in-store café/coffee shop with a coffee bar designed to appear to be housed in a food truck.
The physical experience is what's important to Decathlon, which sees its stores as being 'gathering places'. And while the retailer now has an online presence in Canada, orders must be picked up in-store.
Decathlon has already announced that it will open its second Canadian store next year in Quebec City. The ‘Ikea of sports retailers’ will locate near the city’s new Ikea store at the intersection of Highways 40 and 540.
The retailer also entered the US market last month with an 8,300 square foot ‘lab store’ at 735 Market Street in San Francisco’s Union Square area.
Brokerage Oberfeld Snowcap’s Sylvain Charron represented Decathlon in the lease deal with landlord Cominar REIT and according to the brokerage’s website, Decathlon is seeking retail spaces in the 35,000 square foot to 45,000 square foot range in commercial centres that may include power centres, pad sites as well as standalone locations.
Founded in France in 1976, Decathlon Group is the world’s largest sporting good retailer with nearly 1,500 stores in 39 countries (about 300 stores are in France). It employs more than 80,000 people and boasts annual revenue in excess of C$15 billion.