By  on February 17, 2005

LILLE, France — Ask a French person to name a popular sports brand and they are just as likely to say Quechua or Tribord as Nike or Adidas.

They are the private labels of Décathlon, one of Europe’s fastest-growing sport retailers, with estimated sales of  3.5 billion euros, or $4.56 billion at current exchange, in 2004, with more than half of that coming from its eight in-house brands.

Quechua’s 2003 sales reached 400 million euros, or $520.9 million, with an expected growth rate of 20 percent for 2004, the company said. The brand is geared for skiers and snowboarders but also includes products for trekking and climbing.

Jean-Paul Constant, Quechua’s general manager, attributed the label’s market-share gains to prices roughly 30 percent less than such brands as Nike and designers who stay close to the sports for which they design.

Décathlon recently relocated brand offices to areas where activewear is in high demand. Quechua, for example, decamped from the retailer’s Lille headquarters to Chamonix, at the foot of majestic Mont Blanc.

“Our strategy is to bring together the sports consumer and our technical staff at the same location, so that the product development can be influenced and adapted by the user,” Constant said.

With the trend for off-trail skiing at its peak in Europe, Quechua designed trendy looks for women such as cropped, fitted ski jackets and slim-fitting ski pants with the latest waterproof materials and removable linings.

As for Tribord, a brand covering surf, sailing, swimming and diving, it chose the fishing docks of Hendaye on the southwest coast of France as its base. Tribord general manager Frédéric Duprez said the water-sport brand ranks sixth in its category worldwide, with 2003 sales of 200 million euros, or $260.4 million.

“We make sure that Tribord covers all the needs that may not be offered by other brands,” Duprez said.

Among other brands stocked within Décathlon’s colossal aisles are competitors such as Helly Hansen and Arena.

Other in-house brands include Décathlon Cycle; the fitness label Domyos; Inesis for racquet sports; the archery and fishing label Geologic; Kipsta for football, rugby and basketball, and, most recently, running brand Kalenji. Décathlon plans to add two brands to reach a total of 10 private labels this year, although the company declined to give specifics of the new labels.

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