French sports retailing giant Decathlon has announced plans to further expand across Australia’s eastern states, revealing the location of its next stores in Victoria, which will be located in former Masters homewares sites.
Decathlon opened its first Australian store in Sydney last year and additional New South Wales sites in Auburn and Parramatta are due to open this year. The first Melbourne stores will be located in Box Hill South and Knoxfield, and will commence trading in November, with the retailer planning to have up to five Victorian stores in the next two years.
Decathlon is a family business founded in France in 1976, which now operates more than 1,200 of its large format stores across the globe.
The opening of the brand’s Australian bricks-and-mortar stores was preceded by the company running its online store here for a couple of years, and local chief executive Olivier Robinet tells SmartCompany the decision to launch in Australia was one based largely around logistic capabilities.
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“We’re a France-based company, and our goal is to make sport products more accessible and at a better price to more people in the world. Five years ago we opened a distribution centre in Singapore, which allowed us to deliver to Australia and maintain those low prices,” Robinet says.
“It was impossible for us to do that before, so it was a question of logistics. Supplying Australia is not easy, especially if you want to do it with good quality products for good value.”
Robinet says Australia could have been the first country Decathlon opened in if not for the founder of the company being French, acknowledging that Australia is “way more sporty” than the European nation.
But now the company is well and truly up and running in Australia, with the chief executive boasting it has a “range as good as IKEA and logistics as good as Aldi”. And Australians seem to have been responding well to the newcomer, with the company selling 60,000 items per month from its first store on average, with over 600,000 sales to date.
Masters stores a good fit
Robinet says two of the warehouses the company is opening up in Melbourne are old Masters homewares stores. Masters was Woolworth’s answer to the Wesfarmers-ran Bunnings, but the ill-fated homewares chain failed to provide a point of difference to its popular rival, and shuttered its 82 stores and development sites in 2016.
Both of these stores are around 4,000 square metres, a size Robinet says is perfect for Decathlon, thanks to the retailer including a number of testing spaces inside their stores for customers to ride bikes or scooters, and even play a bit of sport if they want.
“It wasn’t a question of buying Masters stores, it’s a question of us executing our concept. We needed the big facilities,” he says.
Asked if Decathlon will look to take on more of the failed Masters sites, Robinet says it’s not a priority for the company.
“Masters stores are not our priority, and they’re not really a good example. They failed, and we don’t want to fail, so I don’t really care about Masters,” he says.
Looking to the future, the local Decathlon boss says the retailer doesn’t really have any long-term plans for further stores across Australia. Instead, it wants to focus more on getting the soon-to-launch stores right before planning any more roll-outs.
“We still have a lot of work to do on stock availability and reducing prices, and we don’t want to go too fast,” says Robinet.
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