Decathlon buys Swiss sport chain Athleticum
French sport retailer Decathlon entered the Swiss market in 2017 by opening a directly owned store near Neuchâtel, and has ambitious plans for the country. Rather than expanding gradually, as Decathlon usually does outside France, this summer the retailer took over an entire chain, acquiring a majority stake in Swiss sporting goods retailer Athleticum, whose 23 stores, until now owned by the Maus Frères group, will all be flying the Decathlon flag by autumn 2019.
Decathlon’s Swiss subsidiary stated that the Athleticum stores in the towns of Collombey, Conthey and Sant’Antonino have closed down and will reopen as Decathlon this autumn. The acquisition will enable Decathlon to gain a foothold especially in the Tessin area and in Swiss-German cantons, where Athleticum has had its strongest presence since 1995.
According to Jean-Bernard Rondeau, General Secretary of Maus Frères, “our negotiations with the management of Decathlon Switzerland led to the best possible outcome for our staff, and allow us to look to the future with confidence. We share the same values about sport and people.” The Swiss family’s holding company still has a minority stake in Athleticum, and will refocus its attention on the Manor supermarket chain and on its premium sport/lifestyle brands Lacoste, Gant and Aigle.
In terms of jobs, those of Athleticum’s 455 employees are secure, and in fact Decathlon is planning to strengthen the staff in each of the stores. Through this acquisition, the French group is now challenging its two main competitors on Swiss soil, Ochsner Sport and SportXX. It took some time for the French sport group to expand into the neighbouring Swiss market which, in the words of Decathlon Switzerland’s General Manager Christian Ollier, has “specific customs, logistics and commercial features, related to Switzerland’s unique position within Europe.” Ollier also told local press agency AWP that Decathlon’s objective is eventually to open another 30 stores in the country, doubling the number of employees.
Decathlon, which in 2017 generated sales worth €11 billion, had resorted to an acquisition before, at the end of the 1990s, when it entered the US market by investing in the MVP Sports chain. The attempt was unsuccessful, since Decathlon left the country in 2006, though it returned to the USA in 2017, this time opening a series of directly owned stores.
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