Oxylane, the French group that owns Décathlon and a few other minor sports retail operations, has reported a 6.1 percent increase in its total revenues to €7.4 billion, slightly below the previous year's growth of 7.2 percent, although it opened more new stores than in the previous year. On a comparable store basis, the growth rate remained at 1.3 percent, as in the previous year.

Representing 41.8 percent of the total turnover, sales in the domestic French market inched up by 1.4 percent, with an increase of just 0.3 percent on a same-store basis including the sales of its internet store. It performed slightly better than the French sporting goods market, which declined by an estimated 1 percent.

The slow growth in France came in spite of a continuation of Décathlon's heavy discounting policy. In 2013, it lowered prices on 1,400 selected items by around 14 percent, and it plans to make its so-called “Blue Products” even more accessible this year, with an objective to be 20 percent less expensive in all its stores than neighboring retailers. The group is pursuing a similar policy in other countries.

Apparently, the e-commerce channel did not make much progress in 2013. Its online sales in France were still comparable to those of one of its 258 stores in the country. This year, the company will generalize the use of a click-and-collect function at its French stores.

On a net basis, Décathlon opened a total of 74 new stores in 2013, compared with 58 new openings in 2012. The table on this page shows that most of the new openings occurred outside the two big European countries where it is a clear leader – France and Spain.

There were five new stores in France, but this was partly offset by the closure of three stores in the country. It consolidated its leadership in Italy by adding four stores.

Decathlon - Number of Stores in 2013

 

End 2013

NetOpenings

France

258

+3

Spain

100

+2

Italy

89

+4

China

76

+25

Poland

33

+4

Portugal

22

+1

Germany

21

+3

Belgium

16

+1

Brazil

16

+2

Hungary

16

+3

Russia

16

+4

United Kingdom

14

0

Romania

12

+2

Inde

10

+6

Czech Republic

7

+5

Turkey

6

+2

Taiwan

4

n/a

The Netherlands

3

0

Sweden

2

+1

Bulgaria

2

+2

T O T A L

723

+70

On the other hand, Décathlon opened no less than 25 new stores in China and six in India. There were also five new openings in the Czech Republic, four in Russia and Poland, and three in Hungary. Bulgaria was the 20th country that Décathlon entered last year with a store in Sofia opening in August, followed by another a few months later. The 80 stores that Décathlon listed under China at the end of last year included its first four stores in Taiwan. Last November, it celebrated the tenth anniversary of its first Chinese store in Shanghai with 500 collaborators and partners. Its operations in China and Taiwan employ some 6,000 people.

Décathlon plans to open five more stores in France this year, but the group is expected to continue to expand faster in the emerging markets than in Europe. The pace of its development in China should be similar this year to that of 2013, for example, but the opening of new stores in India will be dependent on the development of infrastructure and the fulfilment of numerous conditions requested by local authorities. There will also be several new stores in Turkey and Russia. Décathlon is exploring a couple of new markets, according to an official of the group who declined to be more specific.

Décathlon didn't open any new stores in the U.K. or the Netherlands last year, and more recently it closed down one of its stores in Sweden. On the other hand, the French retailer seems to be keen on securing a firmer position in tough and underpenetrated countries such as Germany, where the number of its stores grew last year by three to 21. It is said to be planning to open its second German downtown location in Mannheim in September, covering about 4,000 square meters.

The figures in the table don't include those of Oxylane's minor banners, which have not been developed greatly. It still has only half a dozen small, fashion-oriented Décat stores in France and a couple of other countries. The group's low-cost banner,

Koodza, has been renamed Décathlon Easy. Offering basic private label products at minimal prices and with a minimum of service, they number now 51: 25 of them are in France and eight in Spain, five in Italy, four in Belgium, three in China, and two each in Portugal, Poland and Morocco. The company also has five stores operating in Spain under the Lot of Colors banner.

With a team of 530 engineers and 150 designers, Oxylane developed 2,800 new products last year. A consumer survey picked the Easybreath snorkelling mask of its Tribord brand as its most innovative products for 2013.