International News - Decathlon poised to open first Chinese megastore

Decathlon, the French sports retailer, will open its first megastore in China in November.

The retailer has been testing the Chinese market since 1998 and has three 10,760 sq ft (1,000 sq m) small stores, in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The 32,290 sq ft (3,000 sq m) megastore will open in Shanghai's Pudong district and includes office space for the Decathlon team, headed by general manager for Asia Harvey Danilo.

'Decathlon has been in China since 1992 for product (sourcing), and since 1998 testing retail through small outlets. The tests have been successful, so we have decided to go further with a big format,' a spokesman said.

He said the megastore would be piloted for a year before a decision is taken whether to open more stores. However, he said Decathlon could potentially open at least four shops around Shanghai.

Assuming a decision is taken to continue the expansion, the retailer will target big towns, such as Beijing.

Decathlon is 44 per cent controlled by Auchan owners the Mulliez family, and 43 per cent by the founding Leclerc family. Employees account for the remaining 13 per cent.

There are 319 Decathlon stores worldwide, including six in the UK. Global sales in 2002 were EUR2.8 billion (£1.94 billion).

Decathlon is the latest internationally expanding retailer to test China. Other entrants include B&Q, Metro, Ikea, Auchan and Carrefour.

- Carrefour, which has 39 hypermarkets in China, said last week it plans to increase Dia discount store numbers in the country from 12 to 600 by 2007.