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Decathlon moves ahead with its US market return, plans first 'full-scale' store

Published September 6, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO (BRAIN) — Decathlon, which claims to be the world's largest sporting goods retailer, plans to open a 47,000-square-foot store in Emeryville, California, in the spring. The planned location is in a former Toys R Us store and will join Decathlon's "lab store" in San Francisco, which it opened in April. 

Decathlon specializes in developing its own house brands, including the B'Twin road bike line and RockRider mountain bike line. This is the second go at the U.S. market by the privately held, France-based chain. 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. 

When Decathlon opened its San Francisco store in the spring, it also soft-launched a U.S. e-commerce site, which initially served only California residents. On Aug. 1, Decathlon opened the site to all U.S. residents. 

"Our future store in Emeryville will feature over 100 different sports and allow our customers to find everything they need to 'get in the game' in one stop, with plenty of opportunities to discover and try out new sports," said Decathlon USA's chief executive officer, Michel d'Humières. "Through this fun, interactive retail center, we are working to build a community around Decathlon in the Bay Area, similar to what we've accomplished abroad."

The Emeryville store will be six times the size of the San Francisco location, which allowed the retailer to test the waters in the U.S. market.  

"We strategically chose to open a smaller-scale store in the city before expanding to this larger retail center in order to better understand the needs of local sports enthusiasts and develop our interconnected retail and online experience. Since our launch, we've had an enthusiastic response to our store and have developed a thriving relationship with the community, and we've decided it's time to introduce the U.S. to our first full-service Decathlon store environment," d'Humières said.

While several major sporting goods chains have shut down in the U.S. in recent years, Decathlon differs from most because it exclusively sells its house brands. The company said its vertical integration allows it to offer better prices than other retailers. 

"At Decathlon, our goal is to reduce the barrier to entry for sports and make sports more accessible to anyone, anywhere by creating real value at true cost," said Decathlon USA's chief operations officer, Sophie O'Kelly De Gallagh. "Our current San Francisco store features 50 sports, but this new store will include our entire line of products, over 100 sports, offering every sport and every piece of equipment to our community and helping people of all ages and skill levels to get outside and be active."

Decathlon also hosts weekly activities and cycling workshops.

A representative told BRAIN the new store will offer a complete selection od Decathlon's own brands of bikes and equipment, which includes Decathlon's brands for road cycling, mountain biking, commuting, gravel, hybrid, cruisers and folding bikes.

"Like our SF store, we will only be stocking Decathlon branded bikes," the representative said.

Photo from the grand opening of Decathlon's San Francisco lab store in April.

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