STORE SPACES

French sporting goods giant unveils North American locations

BY Marianne Wilson

Decathlon has dropped anchor in San Francisco and Canada — but don’t expect Nike or any other familiar global brands.

The value-priced French sporting goods retailer, which operates nearly 1,500 locations across some 40 countries, recently opened an 8,313-sq.-ft. “lab” store on Market Street in San Francisco. Decathlon said it chose to focus on San Francisco to allow the brand to become familiar with the practices of local sports fans before a possible expansion throughout the United States. It also is selling online — but only to residents of California.

This is not Decathlon’s first foray in the United States. It previously entered the U.S. market in 1999 when it acquired 18 stores from MVP Sports. But it ended up closing the stores and leaving the U.S. in 2006, according to FashionNetwork.

Founded in 1976, Decathlon began designing and manufacturing its own products in 1986. Since then, it has created more than 25 private brands across nearly every conceivable sport and outdoor and fitness sport category, from running and golf to snorkeling and fishing to badminton and table tennis. Vertical integration allows Decathlon to sell their own brands at prices far below what competing retailers do, according to the company, while still driving innovation based on feedback from their millions of in-store customers. The company files up to 40 patents per year in developing innovative new products for its owned brands.

“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.

The San Francisco lab store does not look like a traditional Decathlon store. It is intended more as a space for reflection, creativity and dialogue between Decathlon designers, customers and local athletes. It also serves as a community hub for activities ranging from group runs to workshops and yoga. It also provides maintenance, repair and customization services.

“Presenting new products and high-value innovations are at the core of our business model,” d’Humières 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.”

By contrast, the full Decathlon experience is on display at the brand’s just-opened location at Mail Champlain, in the Montreal suburb of Brossard. The 65,000-sq.-ft. Canadian outpost, which offers more than 6,500 products and accessories, features an array of designated product-testing areas.

In addition to wide aisles where bikes and skateboards can be tested, the location also has a putting green, a basketball court, a small indoor rock climbing wall and a pool of water to try out fishing rods and other water-related products. There is also a virtual reality experience that allows shoppers to view a selection of more than 200 tents as if they were in the outdoors through VR goggles.

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Gap ramping up Old Navy store expansion, remodels

BY Marianne Wilson

Gap Inc. is putting its muscle behind Old Navy, counting on the value apparel brand to drive its growth.

The retailer will open 60 Old Navy stores across the U.S., Canada and Mexico throughout 2018. (At the end of fiscal 2018, the brand has 1,066 stores across North America.) In addition, Old Navy said it is remodeling approximately 150 locations this year to ensure its existing stores represent the best expression of the brand, with nearly 90% of the stores receiving improved fitting rooms, bathrooms and checkout areas. The other 10% will go through a full remodel, including three locations that were fully rebuilt following Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria. By the end of 2018, Old Navy will have completed an 18-month remodeling effort to update a total of 300 stores.

“Investing in Old Navy’s retail presence is central to our continued growth and delivering a seamless brand experience, wherever and however customers choose to shop,” said Sonia Syngal, president and CEO of Old Navy. “We are fueling all the ways our customers want to engage with us, starting with providing greater access to our brand through new store openings and remodeling hundreds of locations to underscore the fun, fashion and value for the whole family that only Old Navy can offer.”

A cornerstone of Old Navy’s real estate strategy is continuing to expand the brand into non-traditional retail locations like discount, urban and outlet centers. The brand is also testing new store formats.

Old Navy has been a key driver in Gap’s comeback. The brand’s same-store sales rose 9% in the company’s fourth quarter, and were up 6% for the full year.

In September, Gap announced it was shifting its emphasis to its two best-performing brands — Old Navy and Athleta — and realigning its store portfolio to reflect its new emphasis.

At the time, the retailer also said it expected Old Navy to exceed $10 billion and Athleta to exceed $1 billion in net sales in the next few years.

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Brooks Brothers: How the 200-year-old brand remains relevant

BY CSA Staff

It’s not every day that a retail brand celebrates its 200th anniversary.

But that’s exactly what Brooks Brothers will do on April 25 at a black tie gala at Lincoln Center for 1,000 of its best customers and friends, reported the New York Times. The gala will celebrate the history of the classic American apparel brand and the tenure of its CEO — and owner — Claudio Del Vecchio.

Del Vecchio, who took over in 2002, is widely credited with reviving Brooks Brothers, which had fallen out of favor under previous owner Marks & Spencer. The brand has also benefitted from remaining privately held.

“Claudio has been very disciplined and measured on how he has grown Brooks Brothers, focused on where the brand will go, upping the quality, not going for the quick sales and not opening too many stores,” New York retail consultant Robert Burke told the Times. “He’s elevated Brooks Brothers without deviating from its heritage and tradition.”

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