First look: Decathlon readies ‘Baile Munna’ store for Saturday opening
French sports giant seeks hurling equipment supplier
Bastien Grandgeorge (right), chief executive Decathlon Ireland, and Kieran O’Shea, store leader, outside the new Decathlon in Ballymun, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Global sports retailer Decathlon is seeking a local partner to supply hurling equipment to a potential six to nine Irish stores so it can lure players of both national games to its business.
The French-based giant has spent €13 million on a 4,000sq m flagship store for the Republic in Ballymun, Dublin, which it plans to open this Saturday, June 13th, according to Bastien Grandgeorge, chief executive of Decathlon in Ireland.
He maintains that the group is not phased by opening as Covid-19 restrictions continue to hinder business, saying that it is here for the long term.
“We are asking people not to rush to the store on Saturday, we are here for life, we will be open seven days a week,” Mr Grandgeorge said on Wednesday. He added that the store would allow 150 people in at a time, including staff.
Meanwhile, store leader Kieran O’Shea said Decathlon was seeking a local partner to design, make and supply hurls, sliotars and helmets for the chain.
Decathlon manufactures about 95 per cent of the products it sells at its stores, but takes on external suppliers where equipment is particularly specialised.
Mr O’Shea explained that it decided to go this route with hurling because the game was “very specific, very Irish”.
He stressed that meeting the demand for GAA equipment and kit was high on the chain’s priorities.
Decathlon will make its own Gaelic footballs, along with jerseys, shorts and socks, although it will not be producing these in county colours.
The chain, dubbed the “Ikea of sports”, makes and sells clothes and equipment for more than 70 activities across team games including rugby and soccer, golf, tennis, watersports, outdoor pursuits and fitness.
Decathlon focuses strongly on design. Mr Grandgeorge said it was France’s fifth-biggest spender on research and development, placing it just behind players in defence and motor manufacturing.
Each sport has its own dedicated space within the stores, staffed by a specialist team lead who generally plays, or is involved in, each activity.
The group owns the Dublin outlet, its flagship in the Republic, and already has a store in Belfast. Mr Grandgeorge said Decathlon was eyeing Cork and Galway for its next outlets.
He added it was looking at locations in six different cities and towns. “We would like to implement six to nine stores in total in the Republic of Ireland,” Mr Grandgeorge said.
However, he indicated that it first wanted to see how the Ballymun store performed.
Mr Grandgeorge also stressed that as it would lease the other properties, rents would have to be reasonable. He argued that landlords would need to take into account that Decathlon would be a long-term tenant.
A good response from Irish shoppers to its website prompted Decathlon to open its first store here. It came close twice before, including shortly before the financial crash in 2008.
Of the €13 million that Decathlon spent on the Baile Munna sports hub, as the chain calls it, €9 million went on the store itself.
A basketball court, cycling practice area, miniature pitch and playground surround the building. Mr Grandgeorge stressed that these would be open to locals as well as customers.
Founded in 1976 by Michel Leclercq with the idea of making sport accessible to everyone, Decathlon had sales last year of €12.9 billion. It sells about 1.2 billion individual items annually.
The Leclercq family still control the business, but workers also hold shares in the group, which now trades in 71 countries. About 40 per cent of its products are made in Europe, with 55 per cent in Asia and the balance in South America.