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French Sporting Goods Behemoth Decathlon Announces Massive Concept Store in Former Sears Space at Calgary’s Southcentre: Interviews

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The retail sector may have been particularly hard hit in the past year or so due to the COVID-19 pandemic but Southcentre Mall in Calgary has been gaining momentum with the addition of several new retailers this year to its tenant mix including Western Canada’s first Decathlon store.

Jason Bos, General Manager at Southcentre, said Decathlon will be a significant addition to the area and will signal the next phase of redevelopment of the retail space formerly occupied by Sears.

Jason Bos

And he said that the iconic sporting goods retailer will be one of six new openings in the coming months at the mall.

“Lots of positive stories coming out of Southcentre in spite of a pretty challenging retail environment internationally never mind locally,” said Bos. “What this really signals to us is how things are certainly changing. It is more of an evolution. As we look at new retail, it’s about creating new experiences and doing things differently than we may have done in the past in terms of not only who we go after but what the individual stores have to offer themselves in how they deliver an experience to their customer beyond just racking and shelves and things of that nature.

“For us, Decathlon coming out West with the type of store that they’re bringing here really what it signals to us is this is what we see is more of the future of retail and very much the direction it’s going. With this store it’s not just a retail store. It’s also going to be the Western Canada fulfillment centre. Really what that does for us is we’re going to have basically their entire product line in stock at this store as well multiple different amenities within the store for guests to take advantage of.

SouthCentre Mall Exterior
SouthCentre Mall Exterior. Photo: Jessica Finch.

“Decathlon is pretty forward looking in understanding what the customers are looking for. In spite of all the doom and gloom people are still bullish on Calgary and Western Canada and really this is a pretty positive sign. In the last 12 months we’ve opened over 160,000 square feet of new stores in total. That does include Decathlon. Really to us what that signals is there’s a lot of positive momentum and positive stories.”

New store openings have included PetSmart, Winners, Suzy, iLahui and Couch9.

Southcentre Mall has about 160 stores and services in close to one million square feet of space.

Decathlon, a French sporting goods retailer, will open in mid September in a near 70,000-square-foot store on the second floor of repurposed store space where Sears formerly existed.

Officials said the Decathlon location will be a new store concept featuring extensive inventory and experiential zones along with programming and activities that will make the store a community sports hub. The store will also serve as the Western Canada distribution centre for fulfillment of online sales. 

Decathlon: Dartmouth

The store will feature an automated warehouse to service e-commerce deliveries in Western Canada, as well as give customers access to a wide assortment of Decathlon products for more than 65 sports. The store will feature an experiential and showroom-based shopping journey, as well as a café, a co-working space, after-sale service workshops and a multi-sport area where activities and classes will be held by local coaches.

Bradley Jones

“This is an exciting time for retail in Calgary and we are pleased to partner with an international brand such as Decathlon as it expands into Western Canada. We are seeing increased interest from brands seeking to expand across Canada,” said Bradley Jones, Head of Retail at Oxford Properties, which owns the shopping centre.

“We aim to connect people to exceptional places and this wave of retail activity reinforces the position of best-in-class shopping centres such as Southcentre.”

Decathlon has more than 1,600 stores in over 50 countries. It designs, manufactures, tests, and sells apparel and equipment for over 65 different sports. Decathlon teams provide a complete sports experience through in-store gyms, product test areas, sports classes, training apps and physical and virtual activities for the community. Currently, there are five Decathlon Canada stores in Quebec, one in Nova Scotia and two in Ontario.

Richard Tremblay

“Our mission is to make the pleasures and benefits of sports accessible to the many and we are excited to bring our concept to Western Canada. We are also grateful to the local individuals and families that provided feedback in the design of this new store concept that is being piloted in Calgary,” said Richard Tremblay, leader for Decathlon in Western Canada.

Jaylone Lee

Jaylone Lee, CMO of Decathlon Canada, said the company is constantly scouting locations and “for us to confirm a location requires a specific set of conditions to be met, from pragmatic elements such as square footage, visibility and business terms, to softer elements like affinity with the local community.”

“Calgary is a great retail city with a young, vibrant and active population. The team at Southcentre and Oxford Properties have been great partners, as well,” said Lee.

The most recent store opening for the retailer in Canada was in Burlington, Ontario last weekend.

After Sears closed its 235,000-square-foot store in Southcentre, a local furniture retailer went into the space while the shopping centre planned out the redevelopment. In late 2019, work began to subdivide the space for some large format tenants.

In late 2020, the first of those retailers opened, Dollarama. This year, PetSmart and Winners have also opened in the former Sears space. That was essentially the first floor.

The next phase of the redevelopment includes the second floor and Decathlon. Bos said there is an additional 10,000 square feet remaining on the second floor and about 80,000 square feet on the third floor.

“We’re really approaching this in phases right now. The first phase is the first floor and that’s all open. We’re now onto the second floor and obviously with this announcement we’re well under way,” he said, adding there could be three or four more retailers for the balance of the space.

“We’ll be targeting large format for the most part and alternative uses for the balance of the space.”

Retail brokerage and consultancy Oberfeld Snowcap is leading Decathlon’s expansion in Canada under the direction of Sylvain CharronRobert Weinberg and Darren Quayle

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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