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Why Decathlon is pulling the plug on its US stores


Decathlon’s second attempt to establish stores in the US has failed. The French superstore chain – owner of the Caperlan fishing brand – has closed its two shops in San Francisco four years after they opened.

However, the closures do not mean the company is leaving the US. Instead, it will focus on online sales, making around 100,000 products available.

Decathlon made its first attempt to establish itself in the US more than 20 years ago, with plans to expand to 200 outlets by 2009. Seven years later it had pulled all investment from the US market.

It returned in 2019 saying that its plans for a new retail experience and new technology would help drive participation. It opened a 47,000 square foot store in April that year, followed by another of 38,000 square feet seven months later.

In its initial foray into the US the company’s plan had been very different. Decathlon USA’s COO, Sophie O’Kelly, said at the time. “Our strategy then was to buy our way in by acquiring the 20-store MVP sporting goods retail chain,” she explained. “Competition from domestic players was one of the reasons for us eventually pulling out. This time around we are taking a completely different approach, building the business step by step and taking into account earlier learnings [from a small ‘lab’ shop opened in San Francisco in 2017].

“We will formulate future expansion plans as we develop the concept. We are confident that we can manage growth accordingly and turn this into a real opportunity. Fishing is important to our business because it is growing and is a very big market in the US.”

Decathlon’s key learnings were that there was a real demand for products at affordable prices, that making sports like fishing more accessible had never been more relevant and that a mobile, cashless checkout system would prove popular with customers.

That strategy has clearly failed and Decathlon is turning to a new one. “We are changing the business model to adapt to current market conditions and to better respond to the needs of our customers,” said Group CEO Christian Ollio.

“Our products are clearly popular in the US market, and we have experienced record growth in recent years. However, to grow as it should, we must adapt and pave the way for the Decathlon of the future.”

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