French sports goods retailer Decathlon to set up shops in India

French sports goods giant, Decathlon, is planning to enter the Indian market as a single-brand retail chain, it is learnt.

Currently present in the country as a cash-and-carry or wholesale operator, Decathlon has written to the government proposing to open retail stores in India, similar to the 20 other countries that it conducts business in.
This is the first time that a cash-and-carry player has formally sought to go retail in India. Single-brand retail, which till a year ago had an foreign direct investment ( FDI) cap of 51 per cent, can now be fully foreign-owned, thereby encouraging international chains to foray into India. In multi-brand retail, 51 per cent FDI was allowed recently. So far, many international retail chains operated only in the cash-and-carry category, as it did not impose any FDI limit on companies.

The company, which runs wholesale stores in India, did not reply to a questionnaire sent by Business Standard. Cash-and-carry stores can sell their products only to their members — company, association, institution, retailer or reseller.

Decathlon is among the largest sports goods retailers of the world, with its annual revenue estimated at over euro 6.5 billion. Its stores, around 600 of them around the world, are known for their large formats spread over 4,000 sq m and also for experience areas in various sports like soccer, badminton, tennis and basketball.

The French chain, which was founded in 1976, has separate brand names for the various categories it sells—Aptonia for nutrition and healthcare, Artengo for racket sports, Caperlan for fishing, Domyos for fitness, dance, martial arts and contact sports, Fouganza for horse riding, Geologic for outdoor sports, and Newfeel for walking, among others .

So far, the only significant single-brand FDI proposal has come from Swedish furniture major, IKEA. The euro 25-billion company wants to invest euro 1.5 billion in India over the next few years, but its application was recently cleared by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board ( FIPB) with the condition that it cannot open cafes and restaurants along with the furniture stores. Also, more than 50 per cent of IKEA’s proposed list of product categories was struck down by FIPB. The board is set to review its decision soon.

UK-based footwear company Pavers is the only company to have got an approval from the government so far to operate a fully-owned single brand retail chain in India.

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