The demise of Masters hardware stores has left a number of large retail spaces unoccupied for some time. But French sporting goods retailer Decathlon looks to be cashing in, opening a number of new stores in Australia. While they just have four stores so far, they plan to open about 100. I visited a store on the weekend and it's an impressive set up. Here's what I found and some of the deals.
I visited one of the Melbourne stores - Decathlon opened its doors in New South Wales and Victoria with two stores in each state and more to come with plans for Queensland, South Australia and the ACT - they're also hiring staff if you're looking for a job. As I drove into the car park, there were a much of tents set up, as part for the retailer's camping range, as well as a half-length (or thereabouts) basketball court.
Inside, the space could only be described as huge. It was brightly lit with plenty of open space so you could easily swing a racket or kick a ball - there was a set of practice soccer goals - as well as treadmills so you can test shoes out and a massive array of apparel and equipment for just about any sport you can imagine.
I went in looking for a couple of specific items. I'd heard about Decathlon from friends but really didn't know a whole lot about it so wasn't sure what to expect. If you're expecting to go there and find the latest brand-name kit from Nike, Adidas or someone like that. - forget it. Decathlon is all about their own house brands. While a few people described Decathlon to me as being like Bunnings for sports gear, I think it's more like Aldi.
I think it will take people a little bit of time to build trust in the brand - but that's not to say there's a problem with it.
I went in looking for a couple of specific items - some cycling gloves and a head torch for night-time trail running.
The gloves were easily sourced but the torches they had were your run-of-the-mill gear whereas I was looking for something more specialised. And gear like that is often purchased, in my experience, following recommendations from others. So I wasn't prepared to spend money on a product I couldn't really try out.
However, if you're looking for sports clothing, there are some serious bargains. Their End of Season Clearance has t-shirts, socks and swim wear at under $5. I'd suggest that for $30, you could put together three full ensembles of shirts and shorts. And sports shoes started at around $25.
The list of sports that Decathlon covers is pretty long but I did notice one omission - Australian Rules football. Perhaps as much of the gear is licensed it won't be on the shelves although I'm surprised there weren't any football boots although for many players soccer boots will suffice.
But for almost every other sport on the water, snow, track, court or field, you'll find everything you'll need.