DECATHLON Paris 19th District – Embedded experience

Décathlon, the French leading sport apparel retailer has just opened its biggest store (54,000 sq ft) in Paris. Located North East of the capital, in a new neighboorhood still in the making (called Rosa Parks) where a major open air shopping mall is about to open in the weeks to come.

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First and foremost, I have to admit that I am not a big fan of Decathlon even though I love sports. I have never been attracted by almost essentially functional Decathlon stores nor convinced by their overwhelming private labels displayed all over them. Anyway, Decathlon has been a true success story over the last decades and has proven that its marketing and commercial business model is more than relevant. No other brand can really compete with them on the French market.

Retailwise, I did want to have a look at this latest “sport hypermarket” to see what it is all about.

  • What striked me most at first glance was the width of the aisles. You can easily figure out that the store is huge. Ready to host big flows of shoppers (when the whole shopping mall is complete).

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  • Then, I got it right that Decathlon had to do with a tight budget to do the fitting. The brand used raw materials, installed standard lighting equipments and decided to get rid of spectacular visual merchandising. This leads to a “warehouse feeling” aligned with the discount positioning of the brand.

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  • Decathlon made it very easy for shoppers to navigate in the store and find the sections they are looking for. The signage is both really visible and conveys a discount image. Simple and Efficient

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  • A few aerial digital screens are randomly displaying info and promotions.

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  • Thanks to its generous retail space, Decathlon can display niche market segments such as hunting and fishing items.

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  • There is no doubt that fitness has become a strategic market in France. Both fitness machines and apparel are widely showcased at the entrance of the store.

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  • Where Decathlon makes the difference is on helping its customers to find the products that closely fit their sporting activity intensity. Whether you work out occasionally, regularly or intensively, you will find what suits you most. Clever and convenient.

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  • Private labels are – like in every Decathlon store – prominent. When they rarely have to compete with international brands, Decathlon does its best to showcase them while international brands are intentionally “downgraded”.

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  • Specs and functionalities explanations are straightforward and useful. Decathlon knows how to empower its customers to lead them to the right choice (AKA its private labels ….)

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  • As far as services are concerned, the brand proposes a bike repair station. Available whatever your bike brand. It is much appreciated.

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  • By the way, when it comes to bikes, Decathlon’s range of products is only concentrated on its private label. Annoying isn’t it?

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  • Decathlon is also trying to drive traffic to its website but we cannot feel that it is a strategic issue in that store.

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  • The click and collect space and store pickup are located at the entrance of the store.

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As a conclusion, I would say that Decathlon has delivered exactly what the brand is famous about : a store that gives access to sport activities whatever your budget and brings knowledge about equipments. Mission accomplished.

As far as the shopper experience is concerned, I feel that there would me more to achieve. Even though sport is a fantastic opportunity to immerse shoppers into a fun and social experience, Decathlon has decided that its store will remain 100% functional. We can be quite sure that it is a strategic decision because we know that the brand has been able to push the boundaries in its “connect store concept” in Munich for example. Read the article Here.

Anyway, we know that discount and experience can be mixed together thanks to a clever retail design. In a previous post, I mentioned that the latest Leclerc supermarket store opened a few meters from Decathlon has done an extraordinary job on that issue. See the post Here.

A few minutes after I left the store I couldn’t help myself from asking the following question : what is, in a long term perspective, the real added value of this store compared to a discount sport website ? Wouldn’t you be better off purchasing online at home instead of what appears to me as a bit too functional a store ?

To read my previous “embedded experience” posts, please click the links below:

  • Leclerc Supermarket in Paris : Here
  • Go Sport new Parisian Flagship : Here
  • Literary and Urban ZA Café : Here
  • Librairie des PUF, the bookshop in the digital era : Here