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Decathlon to accelerate investments in India: Global CEO

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For Decathlon, India is currently among the top ten global markets, growing “twice the rate” of others, where it entered in 2009 and now operates a network of 129 stores

By Kumar Rahul

New Delhi: French sports retailer Decathlon is accelerating its investments to ramp up production and enhance its retail presence further in India, one of its “most important” global markets, its Global CEO Barbara Martin Coppola has said.

Decathlon expects to continue its “high growth rate” from the Indian market, which is also emerging as an important manufacturing hub for the sports retailer. She added that it currently exports around 65% of its production to global markets.

For Decathlon, India is currently among the top ten global markets, growing “twice the rate” of others, where it entered in 2009 and now operates a network of 129 stores, she said.

Coppola said she is “really impressed” with the evolution of the sports culture in India, especially among the middle class, which is gradually getting engaged in different kinds of sports, amid a rise in their income level with the economy’s growth.

“We see a real appetite for overall sports consumption, people wanting to try new experiences. And to be honest, there is an energy that is just beautiful to see at the stores… for Decathlon, (India) is one of the major markets,” Coppola told PTI in an interaction.

Over investments in India, Coppola said Decathlon has plans to accelerate local production as well as local sourcing and expand its sports retail sales network.

“I can not comment on investment but we are accelerating. We are not only accelerating presence in India from a retail perspective but also from the production perspective,” she said, adding “India is the most important market for Decathlon. We expect to continue the high growth.”

When asked about the outlook and role India could play in Decathlon’s global operations, Coppola said it is “a major country” for the French sporting goods retailer.

“It’s a powerhouse in digital and to be honest, I am inspired by the creativity of the production, the experiences, which makes it interesting for the world,” she said, adding “I am very impressed by the know-how, which has been acquired progressively.”

Manufacturing of bikes is not easy and India is now manufacturing it. It is also manufacturing backpacks, tents to textiles and this range would continue to increase, she added.

Decathlon has plans to increase the local sourcing to 85% in the next two years of the sports goods sold in India from the present 60%.

“Currently 65% of what is produced in India (by Decathlon) is exported. That part would grow bigger and continue to grow,” Coppola added.

When asked about Decathlon’s growth driver in India, she said there are different factors. Now overall society is getting into sports.”

Earlier, only 5% of the Indian population was participating in sports, however, now this is having a high growth with the adoption of different sports.

“This has especially become popular in the middle class,” Coppola said, adding there are more avenues for sporting also in India.

This is also helped by factors such as a rise in income, leading to “more wealth, more spending on sports and leisure”.

“Now India has more unicorns, experiences and know-how that exist in the ecosystem of India, there are fantastic opportunities and sports is one of the industries, which is exploding. There would be many more,” she added.

Decathlon’s app clocked nearly 29 million downloads in India, Coppola said, adding that the brand has been able to offer “one of the best omnichannel experiences”, which includes not only selling sports goods but also offering space for sports-related activities at its stores.

Decathlon, which is the official partner of the Paris 2024 Olympics, would be delighted if India gets a chance to host this major international multi-sport event, said Coppola.

The Indian government is bidding to host the Olympics in 2036.

Decathlon entered India in 2009 as a cash-and-carry retailer and was approved for single-brand retail in 2013 by the government.

For the financial year ended March 31, 2023, Decathlon India’s sales were at Rs 3,995 crore, registering a 37% growth.

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