French outdoor brand Decathlon opens massive B.C. store, hopes to beat competitors on price

Decathlon is set to launch its first permanent B.C. store in Metrotown this weekend

State-of-the-art kayaks and bicycle frames. A massive camping exhibition in the centre Metrotown. Workers in blue running around frantically. This is the scene a few days before the B.C. grand opening of Decathlon, where the French brand will hope to permanently establish a presence in the province.

Decathlon, the world’s largest sporting retailer, has over 1,700 stores around the world (the Metrotown store is its 20th in Canada). The two-level retail showroom in Metrotown is 38,000-square-feet with three dedicated zones (hiking, camping and trekking; winter sports and water sports), as well as additional sections like running, team sports, racquet sports, fitness, rock climbing and health and wellness, among others. There are also sport advisors hired for each specific activity.

All of the brand’s products are designed in France (with a different base for summer and winter sports) by people who actively engage with the sport in question. Decathlon products range from the super high-end (its cycling brand is used in the Tour de France and the Metrotown store will feature the Canadian debut of Decathlon’s carbon-plated running shoes) to more beginner levels and kids’ products.

A recent B.C. pop-up (also at Metrotown) delivered results above the store’s expectations, according to Decathlon reps.

But what about the competition? Metrotown itself already houses SportChek and Arc’teryx stores nearby. And then there’s MEC, which has an iron grasp on many of the outdoor enthusiasts in the province.

“We have strong price positioning,” says Guillaume Hautson, city leader, Vancouver, for Decathlon Canada, explaining that manufacturing and producing everything they sell gives the company a chance to create its own price points. “We’re going to bring accessibility. Vancouver is already an expensive city. We want to make these sports accessible to as many people as we can.”

As for the region itself, the geographical topography of Metro Vancouver seems like an obvious fit for Decathlon’s brand positioning. “The playground of Vancouver is amazing,” says Hautson, who is originally from France but has lived in Vancouver for the past six years and previously worked at Arc’teryx. “I noticed, if you draw a 30-minute radius from downtown, you can do almost all of the 60 sports we sell. Sailing, paddleboarding, all the indoor sports, mountain bike, all of it. We’re super grateful to be here. It’s such a great place.”

There are also efforts to get involved with the community underway, as Decathlon is partnering with Dragon Boat BC and sponsoring the GranFondo Whistler.

Whether Decathlon can crack into the crowded outdoor sports market is a different question, and one that will start to be answered on Saturday, April 27, when the store opens.