Decathlon Ballymun surfboard sales highest out of 1,700 stores
French sports retailing giant still planning more Irish investment ‘where it is welcome’
The warehouse retailing giant has experienced a huge spike in sales in Ireland of outdoor equipment as the country prepares for an ‘outdoors summer’ of domestic tourism. Photograph: Decathlon
French sports retailer Decathlon, which reopened its Ballymun outlet on Monday for click and collect and appointment shopping, plans further expansion in Ireland after its digital sales here increased fivefold since the beginning of 2021. About 200 people were also queuing outside its store on Monday morning to take up appointments, with a similar number allowed in every 50 minutes for pre-booked slots of the same duration.
The warehouse retailing giant, sometimes described as the Ikea of its sector, says it has experienced a huge spike in sales in Ireland of outdoor equipment as the country prepares for an “outdoors summer” of domestic tourism, as advised by public-health authorities. The Dublin outlet’s sales of surfboards and kayaks, for example, are currently the highest in the world of any of Decathlon’s 1,700 stores, even though the Ballymun outlet has been closed for more than five months until this week.
“From the day after the reopening schedule was announced a few weeks ago, we started to sell a lot of all outdoor sports goods,” said Bastien Grandgeorge, the managing director in Ireland of Decathlon.
“Last week, I got a call from headquarters in France, wanting to know what was going on. They said we were number one in the world for kayaks and surf boards. We have 1,700 shops and some of them are three times bigger than Ballymun. And it has been closed all year. It is all down to digital sales.”
Decathlon’s long-awaited entry into the Irish market was delayed last year due to the pandemic, before it finally opened its doors in June. It shut again along with all other non-essential retail during the third wave that hit over Christmas. The company has since been critical of the extent of Irish anti-virus restrictions.
Mr Grandgeorge said that in its six months of open trading, the Ballymun store was ranked number eight in the world among Decathlon’s global estate of 1,700. The company has also been surprised by the explosion in its online sales here, and is prepared to revive its store expansion plan that was stalled by the pandemic and restrictions, which it said were the toughest it had faced anywhere in the world.
When it entered the market, it was originally suggested that Decathlon might open up to nine Irish stores. Mr Grandgeorge said it certainly plans at least six here, on top of its ecommerce operation.
“The length of the closures and restrictions in Ireland caused problems. It killed two specific projects for us this year,” said Mr Grandgeorge. He would not name the precise locations, but he said one was in Dublin city centre and one was outside the capital. Cork is believed to have been high on its priority list.
“But that does not mean we will not do them again. Since January, we could not even engage with developers to go on site visits. I’m very frustrated with the impact of the restrictions, like every other retailer. But we are still on for making huge investment in Ireland. We will go where we are welcome.”
Mr Grandgeorge said Decathlon wants to open shops in Cork, Limerick and Galway, and is seeking proposals from property partners in those locations. He says it has postponed the planned Dublin city-centre outlet, preferring to wait and see how the city recovers after a 5½-month near-shutdown.