Sporting retail giant Decathlon readies to open first Australian store 18 months after announcing local launch


French sporting goods retailer Decathlon will open the doors to its first Australian big box retail store within weeks, with the company starting customer engagement and recruitment for a spring opening of its first store in the Sydney suburb of Tempe.

The business, which turns over more than $10 billion annually across Europe, China and Taiwan, announced it would launch into the Australian market in March 2016. 

The company currently has an Australian online offering, but according to recruitment ads for the Sydney store, the offering will be up and running by the end of spring.

“We will focus our recruitment in Sydney first and potentially Melbourne soon after so mobility in either of those two places is essential,” the company informed applicants.

Decathlon Australia was unable to provide further details on the exact dates of store openings when contacted by SmartCompany. However, the business has previously indicated it was working toward an October open date, as part of a broader plan to open as many as 100 stores in Australia.

The brand is currently offering customers who sign up to the company’s membership program the chance to win vouchers upon the opening of the store, with winners to be announced in October of this year.

Inside Retail reported in May that the Tempe store, located on land owned by Swedish furniture giant Ikea, is within the company’s desired size range of 3000 – 4000 sqm. The warehouse-style store is expected to carry up to 7000 product lines in 70 sports categories.

The official bricks-and-mortar launch comes just two months after local incumbent Super Retail Group announced plans to consolidate its sporting brands under the Rebel Sport banner. At the time, the company said that decision would help it become “the leading sports retailer in the country”.

IBISWorld analysis of the fitness and sportswear space for 2017 suggests Super Retail Group still dominates 30% of the $2 billion space, but retail analysts have told SmartCompany the likes of Decathlon and JD Sports are almost certain to disrupt that hold.

“The athleisure and sports good market is currently owned and operated by Super Retail Group, and there’s not a great deal of competition. The entry of global retailers will see prices fall, and retailers might see some challenging times,” retail expert and associate professor at Queensland University of Technology Gary Mortimer said back in May.

Speaking to Ragtrader this week, Super Retail Group chief executive Peter Birtles says while the business is well positioned, it is looking to the future.

“We are very pleased with the performances of both businesses but it is the time to really reflect and set ourselves up for the future,” he said.

This means considering the opening of bricks-and-mortar stores by Decathlon and JD Sports, as well as the pending arrival of Amazon.

“If we look at the shape of the marketplace today, it is quite fragmented as we go outside of Rebel and Amart,” Birtles said.

“What we’ve seen in international markets where Amazon and other like Decathlon have operated, [is] that the market leaders have generally been able to grow their market share. And that is our intent.”

However, research analysts at Euromonitor International say Rebel Sport is likely to be challenged by both JD Sports and Decathlon, in part because both have clear market positions: JD in footwear and Decathlon in private label sporting equipment.

“The news that Super Retail Group will scrap the Amart Sports brand to concentrate on the more upmarket Rebel brand indicates that the company is more likely to compete on brand offering, rather than trying to beat Decathlon at its own economy-tier game,” Euromonitor International senior analyst Bettina Kurnik said in July.

Meanwhile, Decathlon’s lower price points could capture some of the outdoor goods market where customers want to replace equipment annually, Kurnik observed.

Retail Oasis strategist Pippa Kulmar has told SmartCompany that overall, price might not have the biggest impact in securing a market leading position, as brand is the most important thing for consumers.

“I think there’s huge potential in the activewear market to play to exclusive brands,” Kulmar said.

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