French sportswear retailer Decathlon is preparing to reignite its UK expansion with aggressive plans to ramp up its store portfolio.

Decathlon is understood to be close to signing two stores to kick-start wider growth plans.

The retailer could not confirm where the two stores would be, but said that it was considering locations across the country and wanted one in the north and one in the south of England.

It added that it would also continue with the expansion of its established out-of-town format.

The retailer’s UK growth has moved at a snail’s pace since its arrival in 1997, with only six stores acquired since then. However, it now wants to add as many as 40 stores in the next five years.

Decathlon’s stores are between 30,000 and 50,000 sq ft (2,790 to 4,645 sq m) in Stockport, Thurrock, Surrey Quays in London, Nottingham, Sheffield and Merry Hill retail park in Dudley, West Midlands.

The retailer was established in 1976 in the suburbs of Lille in northern France.

Since then, it has grown into an international brand covering all five continents with a portfolio of about 400 stores in 14 countries.

Decathlon is also in the early stages of planning its debut in India, although it has yet to confirm where and how many stores it will open.

In 1999, Decathlon entered the US market with the acquisition of the MVP Sports chain, but pulled out in 2006 after disappointing results.

The retailer manufactures goods and equipment for a wide range of sports as well as clothing and accessories.

About half of the goods it sells are part of its own-label range, with a mixture of other brands also on offer.

It manufactures 14 of its own-label brands, which are all designed from its headquarters in Lille and include ranges in mountaineering, watersports, athletics, cycling, racket sports, golf and team sports.