DECATHLON CITY is Designed as an Urban Sports Club

DECATHLON CITY is designed as an urban sports club

Last February, Decathlon, the French leading sport apparel retailer has opened its first Decathlon City in Paris. A 500 sq m neighbourhood store which is poised to serve the needs of urban sport lovers. Quite an original format for the brand which has been exclusively focused on 1,500 to 5,000 square meter big boxes located in retail parks for decades.

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Decathlon City is not just a tiny Decathlon. It’s much more than that. It is basically the best of the brand DNA and expertise wrapped into a reduced space.

Let’s dig into the concept:

  • First of all, contrary to the “average” Decathlon store look and feel, the City concept has been made much more comfortable. The lighting and the quality of the materials stand out from the basic and discount environment we are used to.

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  • Decathlon City concentrates its offer on a limited range of sport activities for urbanites: especially running, fitness and swimming. A selection of urban bikes is also available. Seasonal offers like ski or diving apparels complement the assortment.

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  • Only Decathlon private labels are available here. It could be a bit frustating at first sight but the store mainly caters to beginners or occasional sport practitioners to whom private labels products have proved to be a very decent option. On the flip side, Decathlon has put a lot of efforts over the last years to improve both the performance and the design of the vast majority of its products.
  • Anyhow, visitors have the opportunity to order any product or international brand available on the Decathlon website through in-store interactive displays. Within two days, you can either collect your order in the store or ask for free delivery wherever you need it. Cool and convenient.

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  • The reason why Decathlon City’s concept is worth a visit is that the store has been designed to really bring people together. A place where people in the neighborhood can enjoy and share their love or appetite for sports. The store provides its clients with free coaching sessions as well as digital apps to get the most of their work out routine. As you may know it, Paris is not the easiest place to do sports. Traffic jams and lack of parks can discourage the less motivated. That’s the reason why the store sets up outside running group sessions and in store fitness courses (when the shop is not opened yet in the morning).

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A specific wooden floor has been installed for fitness and pilates alongside with a comfortable locker room. If showers would have been installed, the store could have been considered as a true neighbourhood gym.

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  • Sport sessions schedules are showcased on a digital screen. Up to 10 people can join.

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  • The store can count on a young cohesive team who is obviously enjoying working there. A true competitive advantage to generate positive word-of-mouth.

I have also spotted three savvy merchandising initiatives inside the store:

  • The sliding shelves in the sneaker department that allow the store to stack the items without wasting space.

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  • Digital screens in the changing rooms to ask for support from the staff while you are trying something on. A very good idea to prevent shoppers from giving up their purchase if the size or the color doesn’t match their expectations.

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  • The store also provides some self service tools to fix minor bike problems. This is what proximity retail mindset is all about.

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As a conclusion, I would like to wrap up the visit pointing out three main lessons.

  • With this City concept, Decathlon is proving how dynamic and innovative the brand is. Meanwhile, Go Sport, the runner up on the market, is lagging way behind.
  • However, we can feel that Decathlon is still struggling with some weaknesses when it comes to retail design. The community dimension of the store should have been more dramatized. The digital screen with the training sessions should have been way bigger and showcased in the middle of the store as an iconic element of the concept. Just as Nike dit it in its store dedicated to running in Paris.

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  • It goes the same for the fitness area. It could have been designed as a more immersive and exciting fixture. Like the basketball playground in the recent Jordan store in the Bastille district of Paris.

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  • We can also easily identify room for progress in terms of visual merchandising. Both the storefront and in store displays could have been more exciting and appealing.

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I do believe though that Decathlon City is a game changer concept in the sport retail business. Sport has always been a social activity that connects people together. Decathlon City is just making it easier and more fun. Good game.

To roll out Decathlon City stores in France, the brand will have to deal with the short supply of good available retail space in the French inner cities as well as high rents. The potential looks significant.