Business / Companies

French sports firm eyes bigger field in China

By Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou ( Updated: 2014-09-19 18:20

Decathlon, France's No 1 sports retailer, best known for its low-price strategy is looking to expand its influence in China despite rising labor costs in the country, vice-president of Decathlon China told China Daily on Thrusday.

The French sports goods chain is looking to increase its presence in China to at least 150 stores by 2015 and 500 stores by 2018, said Jean-Francois Mace, vice-president of Decathlon China and director of its South China business.

"China is a huge market and a growing population of people are getting richer. We can see a bigger middle class. When people get richer, they take more care about their health. Health means sports so the sports market is growing in China,"Mace told China Daily.

However, Mace said that Decathlon is not only targeting middle class.

"From the beginning, we don't want to sell only to rich people; we want everybody to be able to practice sports,"said Mace. "Our strategy is to decrease the prices. We can afford it by selling more pieces."

According to Mace, 48 percent of Decathlon's global production is made in China, but he emphasized that he is "not worried"about the rising labor costs.

"The labor cost is rising, but at the same time people have higher salary which means they have more money to do sports,"he said. "Decathlon values long-term partnerships with our Chinese suppliers. Maybe we will have less but bigger partners.”

Mace said that Decathlon will stick to its low-pricing policy, something that he says he believes is the French sports brand's "weapon"for the second and third-tier cities and even fourth and fith-tier cities.

"Besides first-tier cities, we are opening stores in second-and third-tier and even four-and five-tier cities. We keep decreasing our prices and it is our reply for the market in four-and five-tier cities. I believe it is the right ‘weapon' to enter these cities,"he said.

Founded in 1976, Decathlon opened its first store on the Chinese mainland in Shanghai in 2003. From there, it expanded into the country's other regions.

As the director of Decathlon's South China business, Mace revealed that the retailer is going to open its first store in Jiangmen, Guangdong province, very soon and its first store in Huizhou, Guangdong, in 2016.

Decathlon's expansion in China brings along with it a recruitment drive. Mace says the company is going to recruit 6,000 new employees for retail positions by 2018.

Mace says Decathlon is the third biggest sports retailer in China.

Decathlon, along with EDF, France's No 1 electricity supplier, and Valeo, France's No 1 automotive equipment manufacturer, partnered with the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China and the French Embassy in China in hosting a French talent competition geared towards Chinese students earlier this year.

The competition aimed at bridging Chinese college grads with various French businesses associated with the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China.

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