Ski season to be biggest in years
The nation's $2bn snow sports industry is pinning its hopes on the biggest ski season in years when the snow starts blanketing the country's top ski resorts, with Decathlon chief executive Olivier Robinet looking to direct as many skiers, snowboarders and snow fans as possible to his big-box stores.
Backing up his ambitions for the world's biggest sports retailers, which has 1600 stores across almost 60 countries including five stores in Australia, Decathlon has launched its ski and snow campaign with the promotion of $10 skis.
Mr Robinet believes Australians will be so excited to finally hit the slopes after COVID-19 ended international travel to block off once popular ski trips to Europe and Japan and shut down the ski season locally that 2021 will be a bumper winter, and a boon for snow and ski sales.
"With COVID-19 wreaking havoc with people's travel plans over the last 14 months and no opportunities to hit the slopes overseas during that time, there is going to be a massive demand to go skiing and snowboarding in the NSW and Victorian Alps in 2021," Mr Robinet said.
"I think it will be the best season. There is still a bit of risk with COVID, but I think all the skiers are just waiting, they couldn't ski last year and are just excited to be back and have fun. We think it will be huge.
"I have heard the resorts are already full, and we see that people are coming to our new range in the last few weeks and we are ready to celebrate the new ski season, everyone is excited."
Decathlon is a French sporting retailer giant better known in Europe than Australia, but the company has quickly built a presence here after arriving three years ago and now having five stores with a sixth store being built. Its stores are typically large, like a Bunnings Warehouse store, and cover as many as 70 different sports under one roof.
Through COVID-19 the Decathlon stores nearly doubled its sales, as consumers grabbed for sporting equipment to keep them entertained and fit during extended months of lockdowns and home isolation.
Decathlon reported growth of online activity through the worst months of COVID-19 last year with a 200 per cent increase in online sales from March to May 2020. "It was a good year for us, not easy to manage, sometimes very stressful for staff, for availability, many people didn't know us in Australia but thanks to the big boom in cycling for example, fitness, keeping fit in their backyards, a lot of people just discovered Decathlon through this.
"We were a newcomer, just opening our first store three years ago."
The Decathlon chain also specialises in private label sporting goods, but Mr Robinet said in Australia the retailer would aim to grow its range of external brands to fill gaps in its product range and offer more choices to Australian consumers in particular sports. This included a move to open an online store on eBay which had proved very successful.
"Last year sales online were amazing, so we invested a lot in our online business, our own website and a robotic warehouse and we are doing new partnerships, we will focus a lot on partnerships with new brands."
Some of the sporting goods and gear brands Decathlon has partnered with in Australia include Speedo, Columbia, Salomon, Surfboard Warehouse, 2XU and Champion.
"In many sports we have brands, we partner with around 100 brands, in order to make our offer stronger.
"My goal here is really to partner and perhaps have 30 per cent to 40 per cent (of range) with other brands so our (private label) brands are really interesting because they are exclusive, they are different and offer smart and innovative products at an incredible value and price."
Decathlon reported an almost doubling of its revenue in calendar 2019 to $31.87m, although its losses almost doubled to $20.4m.
Originally published as Ski season to be biggest in years