New GO SPORT Retail Concept at Forum des Halles. Embedded experience.

GO SPORT, the French runner-up sporting goods retailer has recently opened its new flagship at the revamped Forum des Halles, the gigantic shopping mall in central Paris.

It took 8 long and hectic months of works (without closing the former store) to reveal a totally re-designed shop : a two-storey 27,000 sq ft unit designed to help Go Sport to catch-up with eternal front-line French player DECATHLON.

Another attempt I would say. After years and years of unfulfilled promises despite numerous commercial and marketing relaunch plans, Go Sport is still thriving to generate decent operational profits while Decathlon is expanding at an impressive pace and is generating massive profits. For Go Sport, the problem stems from the fact that the brand is still dealing with a positioning issue. Whether the brand should compete on budget prices and private labels (like Decathlon) or compete on large international brands assortments. As Decathlon seems unreachable, GO SPORT picked-up the second option a few years ago.

To ultimately reach its goals, designing exciting and immersive stores is no longer an option for Go Sport.

To assess GO SPORT’s new attempt to drive an increasing flow of customers into its store at Forum des Halles, I partly referred to a former article I posted about “10 Essential Elements of Great Retail Design” to make up my mind. You can still read this article Here.

A – GRAB THE VISITOR’S ATTENTION

Located on -3 and -4 levels in the mall, the store benefits from a large and open storefront. We notice that Go Sport has designed a neat and simple new logo that stands out and catches the eyes. We also rapidly figure out that Running and Football (Global football not American Football) are the key-sports the brand has decided to put an emphasis on. A digital screen tries to make the visual merchandising more lively. On this first essentiel element, Go Sport did the job. But, let’s face it. Anything spectacular nor creative have been designed though.

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B – THE DECOMPRESSION ZONE

The first few feet within a store are where customers adjust to the new space. This means that, more often than not, the majority of products placed right by the store entrance are largely ignored and often forgotten about. Here, to say the least, Go Sport has build a gigantic decompression zone. And it is not really a good idea.

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First, I regret that Go Sport’s new mineral environment (dark tile floor) does not stand out from the mall’s main streets.Then, when you enter the store, you can feel that something is missing. Nothing catchy is displayed. This empty space should have been dedicated to showcase a brand iconic element, to engage customers into an inspiring and vibrant sport and fashion universe. As an example, UNDER ARMOUR in its latest “Brand House” in Chicago knows what it takes to design a decompression zone.

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C – WAY FINDING AND CUSTOMER JOURNEY

GO SPORT has organized its assortments through two dimensions: sport disciplines and gender. The repeated use of the words “GO” before every sections of the store on the directories is kind of cheesy. Plus, it doesn’t bring any added value. Directories must deliver straightforward informations. They are not designed to be commercial supports.

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Abbreviated and childish terms such as  “FOOT”, “BASKET”, “SWIM” do not sound like modern vocabulary. Go Sport should know that the “brand language” is a powerful tool to carry out an image of expertise. As football and running are the main disciplines targeted here, shoppers may have some troubles finding less popular aisles in the store. A dynamic wayfinding system would have been appreciated at the entrance of the shop.

D- INTERACTIVE, IMMERSIVE, EXPERIENTIAL

In store, products and brand are showcased in a really conventional way. No surprises whatsoever.

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It is OK to feature a sprint track in the running shoes section but it should be interactive to be really cool. Why don’t customers use this track to have their performances monitored by store’s associates ?

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Go Sport’s merchandising remains conventional even when it comes to unexpected brands like New Era. Too bad.

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Whilst brands are merged into a conventional merchandising, Nike is the only one major sports brand to stand out. The swoosh has obviously partnered at the earliest stage with Go Sport to enhance the sections where the brand plays a leading role.

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I feel that the shop would have brought a bolder experience if the merchandising had played with different heights and various podiums. Better looking mannequins would have helped too (the same as we can see in Nike stores for example).

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When Go Sport promotes shoes at bargain prices, the setting is not really spectacular.

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The very few interactive initiatives from the brand should be more explicit. I would have liked to fully understand how the “come run with us” service works. There is no information available to explain it to you.

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In the same shopping mall, Nike has also opened a new store. Surprisingly, Nike curates exactly the same service as Go Sport. Anyway, the brand makes it straightforward with the set schedules on a digital screen.

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Go Sport has introduced its new Bike section brand (“Bike +”) into its flagship. Sounds exciting in the first place. Besides selling bikes, “Bike +”provides shoppers with a very useful repair and maintenance services. Great.

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Disappointments arise when you pay more attention. I was amazed to see that € 2,000 bikes were not showcased on podiums with some extra informations.  To sell these machines, I think that added-value visual merchandising is needed. Mixing up cycling clothing and bikes on a same podium would have been appreciated too.

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E – LIGHTING

Go Sport has designed lighting as a key element of the store. And it is pretty efficient. Anyway, the whole store is a bit sad and lacks in vivid colors sometimes. I think that the dark floor doesn’t help to bring extra energy to the store.

F- PATH TO PURCHASE

Go Sport has designed really well laid-out tills. The path to purchase is clear and comfortable.

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CONCLUSION

  • In my opinion, Go Sport new store at Forum des Halles looks more like a decent renovation of an existing store than a real flagship supposed to embody the brand’s new ambitions.
  • If Go Sport has decided to be the “French Home of exciting and international sporting brands” in order to generate extra new footfall and increase its revenues, I think that there is still a lot to do. Starting with merchandising. What I saw was really too conventional to drive impulse buying.
  • The shopper experience is a bit disappointing. Visitors are not living a sport experience. At least not a vibrant one. We expect Go Sport to provide shoppers with interactive, fun and cool experience. So does Nike in its new store located 5 minutes away from Go Sport in the same mall. And I am pretty sure that Forum des Halles visitors have already noticed it as well.
  • What should work Go Sport managers be preoccupied about is that even Decathlon is now able to give birth to exciting stores, especially outside France. See the full article here.