Sporting goods retailer Sports Experts has opened its largest store to date at Quartier DIX30 in the Montreal suburb of Brossard. The highly experiential two-level retail space features ample technology as well as innovations for visitors to test products.
Spanning about 75,000 square feet, the store is located in Quartier DIX30’s ‘Avenue des Lumières’ which is one of the centre’s original phases currently undergoing a transformation. The massive Sports Experts retail space is said to have cost approximately $21 million to build.
Experiential retail is key to the new store. Two rooms allow guests to try out products in different climates including a ‘rain room’, and a ‘cold room’ where customers can test out clothing and rain boots in the elements. Local co-owner franchisee Paul-André Goulet said that to his knowledge, it’s the only rain chamber of its kind in a retail space in Canada.
The overall design of the new store is bright and easy to navigate, including wide aisles and lighting that is eco-friendly. On the main floor, a central corridor houses a range of accessories, luggage, watches and an eye glasses bar. As the store evolves, the eye glasses space could include the addition of an optician.
It’s being called ‘the ultimate Sports Experts experience’, with the store featuring three entrances. Each section of the store creates a unique experience.
Displays featuring the latest technology bring the retail space to life. That includes more than 100 light boxes, six giant LED screens including a jumbotron with 4 faces, which is said to be the first for any retailer in North America. Other innovative technology and LED screens are also part of this new store.
In the ski section on the main floor, new innovations include customization that is being offered by French firm Sidas. That includes soles that are molded to the foot of the customer that can be used in skates, ski boots, or almost any sports equipment involving footwear.
Next to the ski section, the children’s section has been fitted in a unique space which includes clothing, accessories and shoes.
The 21,000 square foot second floor is dedicated to running and related sports. Included are shop-in-stores for brands including Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, and New Balance which flank the space. Nearby is an area with yoga-related products.
At the back of the second-floor is the largest sports-themed footwear space anywhere in Canada. Information about different styles can be discovered via RFID technology, which provides customers with information about the shoe, as well as sizes and styles available in the store. Exclusive to the Quartier DIX30 store is TECNICA Technology, which are moldable shoes/ boots that mold to the foot of the customer using a professional heating machine. The footwear space also includes a treadmill to evaluate a customer’s running method.
A unique feature of the flagship is its eco-focus. Located at the main entrance to the store, next to the cash registers, is a Hydro Flask wall which offers a free self-service water station that allows customers to know how many bottles of water have been saved by using the station. The customer has no obligation to otherwise purchase anything in the store, and visitors may either buy a Hydro Flask bottle or come with a bottle of their own. Surrounding the Hydro Flask displays is an attractive green wall with various plants showcased to create a calming effect.
The highly experiential retail space is likely to be very successful, as Sport Experts is already very popular in Quebec. Already, visitors spend an average of about an hour in a store at a time and the retailer’s latest innovations could result in even longer dwell times.
Since 2015, the chain has been constantly evolving by renovating and adding innovations to its retail space. The latest concept for Sports Experts was launched in the retailer’s CF Carrefour Laval flagship, which introduced the ‘Wide Concept’ which features ample technology to wow the customer. The downtown Montreal Sports Experts flagship also features the updated store concept, with the Quartier DIX30 flagship representing the most enhanced store design for Sports Experts to date.
Sports Experts was founded in 1966 and was acquired by Forzani Group in 1994. Canadian Tire-owned FGL sports acquired Forzani in 2011 and is now the parent company of Sports Experts, which operates about 140 franchised locations in Canada with most being located in Quebec. Last week, Canadian Tire announced that it will centralize the operations of its multiple banners which is expected to save the company at least $200 million annually by 2022. That includes cutting costs by centralizing operations such as marketing and sourcing for banners also including Sport Chek and Mark’s, among others.
The retailer’s innovations come at a time of unprecedented competition amongst sports retailers in Canada, including in Quebec. The world’s largest sporting goods retailer, France-based Decathlon, is expanding its operations aggressively with its own experiential stores which will have stores across Canada within the next three years. Decathlon’s first Canadian store opened in the spring of 2018 at Mail Champlain in Brossard, which is only about 3.5 km away from Quartier DIX30.
Other sports retailers expanding in Canada include SAIL Plein Air, which has been expanding its Sportium banner in Quebec with three stores in the Montreal area and one in Quebec City. Vancouver-based membership-based cooperative retail concept MEC has also expanded into the Quebec market with four stores in Quebec, three of which are in the Montreal area. Toronto-based high-fashion sports retailer Sporting Life opened its first Montreal-area store at Quartier DIX 30 in the fall of 2018, and more are said to be in the works for Quebec.
While multi-brand sports retailers are continuing to expand into Quebec as well as other parts of Canada, some retailers are said to be concerned that brands may pull out of wholesalers as they open their own corporate brand stores. Nike recently told multi-brand vendors in the United Kingdom that it would pull back wholesale distribution as standalone Nike stores expand in the country, and other brands such as Adidas and Under Armour are also opening stores worldwide.
Retail Insider reported last month on Under Armour’s first ‘brand house’ in Canada at CF Toronto Eaton Centre, and the concept is expected to open in other major markets amid a direct-to-consumer push that includes freestanding stores as well as dedicated e-commerce websites for brands. Adidas has upgraded its stores in the Canadian market, and Nike has also been opening stores across the country over the past several years, and next year will open a massive Niketown flagship at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre.