French sports giant Decathlon is waging war on Australian retail – one $4.50 backpack at a time.
The membership-only retailer has just opened its third store in Moorabbin, Victoria and launched an Australian-first initiative: a specialist CB-based “click and collect” point in Melbourne’s CBD.
With three physical stores under his belt, Decathlon Australia Olivier Robinet told 9News.com.au the brand is set for more radical expansion.
“My personal dream is to improve the lives of Australians through sports,” Mr Robinet explains.
“It’s quite hard here in Australia to find accessible prices for sporting equipment that is decent quality.
“The market here is more expensive than almost anywhere in the world.”
Arriving in Australia in 2017, Decathlon has turned traditional sports retail on its head.
Operating out of “mega stores”, Decathlon requires shoppers to be members at a no additional fee before they can purchase a product.
Once they are members, shoppers have access to more than 70 sports – including niche activities such as archery and rock climbing – but very few recognisable brands: most of what Decathlon sells is made in house.
“We design, we produce, we retail and we distribute,” says Mr Robinet.
“Because it is all in-house we don’t have that much margin on our products, because we are our own distributors.
“That’s how we can offer such low prices.”
It sounds like marketing spin, but Robinet refers to “low prices” he truly means loose change: the brand has become famous of $4.50 hiking packs, $15 sports headphones, $2 t-shirts and $4 swimming goggles.
Cutting unnecessary costs is almost like a religion at Decathlon.
“We deliberately don’t sponsor athletes,” says Mr Robinet.
“We don’t have to pay Rafael Nadal, Federer etc. We’re not like Nike where the marketing is part of the product.”
Rock-bottom pricing is also how Mr Robinet plans to take a chunk out of Rebel Sport’s huge Australian market share.
“Rebel is a big player. They are in shopping centres, and they have nice brands and a huge range,” explains Mr Robinet.
“They have a huge market share, a long story in Australia and many stores.
“But they don’t respond to the global market.”
According to Roy Morgan research, Rebel is the nation’s leading sports store with a customer satisfaction rating of 89.2 percent – but Decathlon is poised take a large chunk of the market.
“The arrival of Decathlon will no doubt shake the sporting goods and apparel market. It is known as ‘category killer’,” says Roy Morgan Research CEO Michele Levin.
“However, while Decathlon may be well-regarded for providing excellent customer service, so too is Rebel Sport.”
For Mr Robinet, Decathlon’s attack of the Australian market isn’t a matter of how, but when.
“In Australia, there is no-one doing sports retailing like this,” says Robinet.