Construction is set to start on Decathlon’s new Dublin flagship store on Wednesday, September 4th, paving the way for the French sports retailer to open its first Irish store in Ballymun in April 2020. Depending on the success of the debut store, it may be swiftly followed by subsequent openings of other outlets in Dublin, as well as Cork, Galway, and Waterford.
The retailer, which has 1,500 stores in more than 50 countries worldwide, has appointed construction firm Mannings to build out the store, located on a site it acquired from Dublin City Council last year, and which had previously been used as an an overflow car park for the nearby Ikea outlet.
The new sporting goods superstore, which represents a €13 million investment from the French retailing giant, will become known as Decathlon Baile Munna, after a Facebook poll among customers expressed a preference for its name as Gaeilge.
"Making it the most Irish we can is very, very important," said Bastien Grandgeorge, chief executive of Decathlon in Ireland, adding that this emphasis will also see the retailer move into Gaelic sports for the first time. Already it has developed its first Gaelic football at its R&D centre in Lille, and will launch this range, which will include gloves and apparel, when it opens the Ballymun store.
“We’ll start with football; we won’t have hurling initially but we will move into it,” he said.
The Ballymun store will have 4,000sq m (43,000sq ft) of retail space, as well as 700sq m (7500sq ft) for its Irish corporate headquarters, 1,500sq m (16,140sq ft) of outdoor playground – some of which will be covered – and an indoor practice area for people to test the products.
The retailer, which already employs some 36 people at its Sandyford offices, is currently ramping up recruitment ahead of next spring’s launch, and is looking to hire an additional 90 employees by next February.
On the store’s Irish pricing policy, Mr Grandgeorge said “we will be the lowest we can”, adding that prices will be comparable to France.
Brexit however, will pose a challenge. The supply chain of the retailer is designed to bring in stock from the UK; but of course depending on October 31st, this might no longer be an option if customs and tariffs are added. As such, the retailer has a back-up plan to swap distribution to France. “But this is more expensive,” said Mr Grandgeorge, who offered an assurance that any extra costs from this will not be passed on to Irish consumers.
Once the Ballymun store is opened, Decathlon will assess its performance over a two-month period before making a decision on its second opening. The retailer has plans for three Dublin stores – another on the northside, one in the west, and one on the southside – as well as additional stores in Galway, Cork and Waterford, with a potential nine Irish stores in total. An opening in Cork could follow soon after the Ballymun launch.
However, the rollout of the brand in Ireland has proven more challenging than expected, attributed to the high costs of doing business in the retail sector here.
Mr Grandgeorge said he was “very surprised” at construction costs in Ireland, noting that they were on a par with Singapore, where he opened a number of Decathlon stores before moving to Ireland. “Crazy rents” have also been an issue, with Decathlon looking to rent, rather than build, all its other Irish outlets.
Decathlon first started selling into the Irish market via its website in August 2017, and averages 170 orders a day, or more than 60,000 a year. “It’s 30 per cent above what we expected in year two,” said Mr Grandgeorge.