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Sporting goods giant Decathlon taking another stab at US market

Published April 3, 2018
The France-based chain, with more than 1,300 stores globally, will offer its house-brand B'Twin bikes at U.S. stores and online.

SAN FRANCISCO (BRAIN) — Decathlon, said to be the world's largest sporting goods retailer, is making its second stab at the U.S. market. Last week the company opened a 8,300-square-foot "lab store" on San Francisco's Market Street.

Decathlon entered the U.S. market for the first time in 1999 when it bought the assets of MVP Sports Stores, a New England sporting goods chain with 20 locations. It rebranded the locations as Decathlon but shut down all but four of the stores in 2003 and shuttered the remaining stores, which were all in Massachusetts, in 2006.

In this go-round, Decathlon is exclusively offering its house-brand merchandise in its U.S. stores and online. That includes the B'Twin brand of bikes, clothing and accessories. The retailer used the Decathlon brand on bikes until about 2006 when it launched the B'Twin brand. Decathlon was the bike sponsor of the Ag2r pro team for several seasons.

The San Francisco store, which held a grand opening last Thursday, will "allow the brand to become familiar with the practices of local sports fans before a possible expansion throughout the United States," the company said. The company said the store does not look like most Decathlon locations.

"It is intended more as a space for reflection, creativity and dialogue between Decathlon designers, customers and athletes. It also serves as a community hub for activities ranging from group runs to workshops and yoga. The retailer is also passionately devoted to the communities in which it operates, and is currently seeking out sports and community groups with which to partner in the local region," a news release from the company stated.

The company also is soft-launching its e-commerce program. Its U.S. website currently accepts orders only from California. A company representative told BRAIN a national e-commerce site is expected to go live in June.

The San Francisco store currently has bikes in stock, but the latest models are still in transit and will arrive in about three weeks. The company offers a wide range of bikes; many of them priced aggressively. For example, its 2018 line includes the Ultra 940 Carbon, a carbon-framed road bike with Dura-Ace components and Zipp wheels that will retail for $3,999.

The first Decathlon store opened in Lille, France, in 1976. It now has 1,350 stores, in 39 countries. It began developing proprietary products in the 1980s and now has more than 25 of its own brands and says it files up to 40 patents every year.

"What really sets Decathlon apart from other sports retailers is how we innovate, design and manufacture our own brands for each individual sport, which we make available direct to our community of sports lovers," said Decathlon USA's chief executive officer, Michel d'Humières. "Each of our products is the result of extensive innovation to ensure the highest quality product at the most affordable price, thereby making sports more accessible to everyone."
"Presenting new products and high-value innovations are at the core of our business model," he said. "With this San Francisco space, our goal is to discover the best user experience in-store and online for Americans by understanding their needs in order to co-design together and create the best platform."

The store held a grand opening event on Thursday, March 29.

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