Customers Strip Shelves Bare as Decathlon Opens Its First Israeli Sportswear Store

French retailer forced to close for a day on Sunday to allow for restocking after over 25,000 people visit Rishon Letzion store in first three days

An employee at a Decathlon store in Berlin.
© Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

Israelis have snapped up so much merchandise at the country’s first Decathlon store since it opened last Tuesday that the French sportswear retailer will be closed on Sunday for restocking.

Sources said more than 25,000 people visited the store in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letzion between Tuesday and Thursday last week.

The pace of sales was so great that it was impossible for the store to restock merchandise and also remain open for business, management said.

The experience at Decathlon’s new 3,000-square-meter (32,000-square-foot) store bucks the overall retailing trend in Israel this summer. There was a 6 percent drop in retail sales at shopping malls around the country in July and August compared to a year ago, according to Retail Information Systems (based on data from 2,300 stores).

Unlike fashion retailing, sales of sporting goods and sportswear have been on an upswing in Israel in recent years, since the emphasis on heathy living and leisure activity gained greater prominence.

This hasn’t escaped the attention of traditional clothing retailers. The Fox fashion group, for example, acquired Israeli franchise rights for the U.S. Foot Locker sportswear chain and has opened stores in Israel.

Another factor in Decathlon’s initial success has been its low prices. A sample price check of eight items revealed that six of the eight items were being sold for less in Israel than at its French stores. But unlike other countries where it operates, over its first three days Decathlon didn’t offer sales promotions in Israel.

Unlike other foreign retailers that have franchised their Israeli operations, Decathlon opened its Rishon Letzion location on its own, as has been its practice in other countries. The French retailer has over 1,000 stores worldwide and bills itself as Europe’s biggest sports retailer.