Decathlon to open outlet in The Centrepoint on Sept 12, becoming Frasers Property Retail's first sports anchor tenant

A guest trying out backpacks during the soft launch of Decathlon at Centrepoint on Sept 11, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Decathlon Orchard, the chain's fifth experience store in Singapore, will open its doors to the public on Sept 12, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
A guest trying out the virtual reality camping experience at Decathlon Orchard, on Sept 12, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
The two-storey Decathlon Orchard replaces Metro as The Centrepoint's anchor tenant. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
A guest testing footwear on simulated outdoor terrain at Decathlon Orchard on Sept 2, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Decathlon is expanding its footprint in Singapore with its fifth experience store, Decathlon Orchard, opening its doors on Saturday (Sept 12).

The Centrepoint outlet is the French retail giant's first store in the Orchard Road shopping belt. The sports goods specialist unveiled the 3,200 sq m store to the media on Friday, one day ahead of its official opening.

The two-storey outlet, which spans six units, replaces Metro as The Centrepoint's anchor tenant. This is the first time that Frasers Property Retail, which owns The Centrepoint, has a sports retailer as the anchor tenant in one of its malls.

Mr Nils Swolkien, managing director of Decathlon Singapore, said: "We are excited to bring sports closer to the heart of town and make sports accessible to even more Singaporeans."

Like its other experience stores, Decathlon Orchard incorporates technology heavily into its operations. For example, shoppers can explore tents through a virtual reality headset and experience how these hold up in different environments and weather conditions.

Ms Foo Chai Hong, Fraser Property Retail's head of central leasing, said: "Decathlon's entry at The Centrepoint fits our vision to create immersive retail experiences for our shoppers' evolving preferences. We believe the shopping experience must become more interactive, creative and personalised."

Decathlon first arrived on Singapore's shores in 2013 as an online store before it launched its first outlet at Viva Business Park in Chai Chee three years later. Besides the five experience stores, it also has seven click-and-collect stores.

Its reputation for affordable goods - a pair of running socks for instance costs as little as $2.50 - has helped it ride out the downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

While overall retail numbers in Singapore were down by close to 9 per cent in July, Decathlon experienced a 38 per cent increase in sales. Its online sales in July also grew by more than 300 per cent.

Bikes have become its best-selling item in Singapore since the April to May circuit breaker as cycling has gained popularity over the past few months.It saw a 47 per cent and 64 per cent increase in bike sales in June and July respectively.

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A guest test-riding a bicycle in the new Decathlon Orchard during the shop's soft launch on Sept 2, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

But Decathlon is not the only sports retailer to see an uptick since the pandemic.

Bike shop Bikes n Bites noted that interest in bicycles began to grow in March.

Monthly sales of its bikes, which does not include pre-orders, have more than doubled.

Digital sales and marketing manager Benjamin Lee, 29, said: "Supply has not been able to keep up with the demand, so we are trying our best to cater to all our customer needs while working with the other distributors in Singapore."

Although sales of sporting goods have skyrocketed over the past few months, Mr James Walton, sports business group leader for Deloitte South-east Asia, believes that this might not translate directly to a significant contribution to the local sports industry.

While retail giants such as Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Decathlon have experienced a boom in online sales during the pandemic, smaller businesses that do not have as great an online presence may be at the losing end as the retail industry continues to suffer.

"If you are Decathlon and you have an online channel, you may pick up someone online but a lot of those shops in Queensway that don't have an online channel miss out," he said.

"The question is, is your online presence strong enough locally and is your range of products wide and competitive enough so that people choose to order with you locally or has your business gone elsewhere?"

Since malls reopened in Phase Two, Mr Sabeer Mohamad, owner of Sah Sports Centre, a sports shop in Queensway Shopping Centre, has noticed about a 30 per cent drop in the number of customers.

As it relies mainly on its shop for sales, there was close to no business during the circuit breaker.

The 64-year-old said: "Some people are scared to come out. Some say they have not enough cash to spend on these things."

But Mr Sabeer, who set up the shop in 1978, ruled out shifting his business online as he has "no hope for online", and remained optimistic that shoppers will return eventually.

He said: "I like to meet customers face to face. So far, I'm quite happy (with things) and would like to continue."

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