By Craig Patterson
Decathlon the world’s largest sporting goods retail chain that is headquartered in France, will open two first-to-market stores in the fall of 2020 in two Ivanhoé Cambridge shopping centres. It’s part of an aggressive expansion on the part of the value-priced retailer that will eventually see stores open across the country, disrupting the industry as Decathlon competes against homegrown sporting goods retailers as well as other stores carrying sports equipment.
Retail brokerage and consultancy Oberfeld Snowcap is leading Decathlon’s expansion in Canada under the direction of Sylvain Charron, Robert Weinberg and Darren Quayle. Decathlon’s latest store announcements are for stores to open in Dartmouth in suburban Halifax, Nova Scotia, as well as in Burlington, Ontario.
The Burlington Decathlon location will be at Mapleview Centre and will span 54,800 square feet on the lower level space in the mall that was once occupied by Sears. It will be the second Ontario location for Decathlon, following the opening of an Ottawa store next Monday, September 23. The Mapleview Decathlon store will kick off an expansion for the chain in southern Ontario that is also expected to include multiple locations in the Greater Toronto Area.
Decathlon will also open a 23,080 square foot store at Mic Mac Mall in suburban Halifax in the fall of 2020. According to landlord Ivanhoé Cambridge, the store will be located in space that was once occupied by a Target store in the mall. Decathlon will be a key component to the mall’s $55 million redevelopment that is nearly completed — the centre has seen upgrades to its common areas, store expansions, and the arrival of several other new retailers. Mic Mac Mall is anchored by a Hudson’s Bay department store and also houses retailers including H&M and Forever 21.
Decathlon’s first Canadian store opened in the Montreal suburb of Brossard at Mail Champlain in April of 2018. The retailer opened its second Canadian location, also in suburban Montreal, in Boisbriand in April of 2019. On Tuesday of this week (September 17), Decathlon opened a store in the Quebec City suburb of Ste-Foy, and on Monday (September 23) the retailer will open its first store in Ottawa. Decathlon will also open a store this fall at the overhauled Montreal Eaton Centre, which will be the retailer’s first downtown store in a Canadian city.
More stores will open as Decathlon establishes itself in the Canadian market. In an interview in August of this year, Rob French, Chief of Digital Commerce & Communication with Decathlon Canada, said that the retailer was also looking to open stores in the Calgary and Vancouver markets as it establishes itself in English-speaking markets in Canada. Mr. French explained that Decathlon’s expansion will be rapid with more stores set to open in 2020 and beyond.
Plans are also to open the company’s ecommerce business in Canada this year. The company will start gradually by optimizing its warehouse and speed of delivery for customers.
Decathlon stores are highly experiential, with areas dedicated to testing out different products. Included are aisles to test bikes and skateboards, climbing walls, badminton courts, basketball court, putting greens, gyms, and even pools of water to test fishing rods and lures, as well as a mini-pool to try out paddle boards, for example. “The average time people stay is approximately 45 minutes or more,” said Mr. French.
Decathlon is connecting with the community as it has launched its community app where people can find new activities and places for sports for people. They can access coaches, events and venues, for example.
“Currently in Canada there is no lower price option on the market. There’s not much accessibility to try and experience sports before buying,” Mr. French said in an earlier interview with Retail Insider.
Decathlon’s value proposition, which includes an expansive offering of good quality private-label products, will go head-to-head with homegrown retailers that, in many instances, offer pricier goods in related categories. “Decathlon is recognized as formidable, vertically integrated retailer that will force other sporting good retailers to up their game,” said Montreal-based retail strategy consultant Carl Boutet in an earlier interview.
Some refer to Decathlon as being the ‘Aldi of sports retailers’ -- Aldi is an efficient German grocery chain known for its inexpensive private-label products, which is expanding rapidly around the globe. Some also refer to Decathlon as being the ‘Ikea of sports retailers’ for similar reasons.
Each of Decathlon’s ‘passion brands’ is tested in real-world conditions, and customer feedback is integrated into further product design and development. Work is further guided by Decathlon’s research and development centre which is called ‘SportsLab’. Every year, the company creates more than 2,800 new products.
Economies of scale help keep costs down, and Decathlon has created efficiencies across the company that allows it to pass on savings to consumers. Return policies are liberal, as the company seeks to maintain customers for life. Decathlon also says that it pays its employees fair wages, provides excellent benefits and provides ‘a clear path for growth’. “People matter the most. People are our most valuable resource,” says the company’s US website.
Decathlon even has an eco-focus, noting that it aims to reduce packaging, and that its stores are ideally accessible by public transit. Energy efficiency is a goal for its stores, as is storage optimization, logistics and environmental labelling.
For more than a decade, The Decathlon Foundation has worked to improve access to education, training and employment. Initiatives vary widely, ranging from renovating or building new sports grounds to helping train coaches and teachers. The company empowers employees to go into the community to partner on various initiatives.
Decathlon, with its extensive range of value-priced sporting goods, could significantly disrupt an industry that already includes some exceptional retailers. FGL Sports (operating under multiple banners including Sport Chek, Atmosphere and Sports Experts) has stores across the country in a range of sizes, including a handful of flagships that include innovative technological installations. Outdoor retailer SAIL, with stores in Quebec and Ontario, could see some market share loss in several of its product categories. Laval-based Sportium (part of the SAIL Plein Air umbrella), which operates three large store locations in Quebec, has said that it plans to open as many as seven more locations in the province over the next three years. Vancouver-based MEC, aka ‘Mountain Equipment Co-op’, has been expanding aggressively across Canada and given its value product and selection, might be considered to be the closest competitor to Decathlon in Canada.
Retailers in Canada that carry sporting goods are also at threat of losing market share to Decathlon — Canadian Tire, Walmart and other similar retailers that include sporting goods departments in their stores. Decathlon’s value proposition and experiential stores could be advantageous in taking market share from such retailers.
Founded in France in 1976, Decathlon Group is the world’s largest sporting good retailer with more than 1,100 stores in more than 30 countries. It employs more than 78,000 people and boasts annual revenue of about C$15 billion. 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, and each with its own design team. Decathlon aims to make sports more accessible by offering a wide range of quality products at affordable prices. The retailer also endeavours to cater to a range of customers from beginners to professionals.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: email@example.com