Decathlon expands with specialist brand acquisitions amid industry shake-up

French sporting goods retailer Decathlon is considering acquiring specialist brands to expand its business, according to CEO Barbara Martin Coppola. The company is taking advantage of a market shake-up following the pandemic that has made many companies attractive targets.

The company, known for its affordable sports gear, recently acquired German climbing retailer Bergfreunde for hundreds of millions of euros. Its newly formed division, Decathlon Pulse, is targeting more acquisitions, particularly in Europe and beyond. Martin Coppola noted that many companies with unique offerings are currently facing uncertain market conditions.

A surge in demand for fitness apparel and gear during the Covid pandemic boosted sales for such brands, but the subsequent return to normal left many with excess inventory. Brands like On and Hoka are providing fresh competition to established players, targeting consumers looking for niche sports products.

Decathlon is expanding its expertise in sports such as running, cycling and mountaineering, and is increasing its investment in marketing, including a debut sponsorship of the Paris Olympic Games. Decathlon Pulse intends to pursue acquisitions in higher-end markets not yet served by its core business offering.

In her two-plus years as CEO, Martin Coppola has also focused on emerging business models, such as second-hand and leasing, which have shown significant growth. With sales set to reach €15.6 billion in 2023 and profits of €931 million, Decathlon is reducing its brand portfolio from 80 to 12.

Decathlon Pulse, which operates 1,750 stores worldwide, with important markets in France and China, has €300 million in venture capital investment earmarked over the next four years. This follows €400 million invested in 21 companies since 2018, including Bergfreunde and French cycling retailer Alltricks.

Martin Coppola describes Decathlon Pulse as a continuation of ongoing initiatives, now with greater resources and scope. (1 dollar = 0.9240 euros)

(Disclaimer: Based on information obtained from the agency.)