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Decathlon's transition to a 'multi-specialist company': From logo to store concept

By Sylvana Lijbaart


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Business |Report

The new Decathlon store. Credits: Decathlon

While other sportswear chains face various challenges and sometimes even flounder, Decathlon sees room for growth. The French sports fashion retailer, founded in 1976 by seven sports enthusiasts with the mission to make sport accessible to all, aims to transform from a B-brand into an A-brand. Therefore, Decathlon drafted a transition plan. The transition plan aims for a 'more profitable, digital, and environmentally friendly' approach. Such a plan necessitates a refreshed workflow and includes a new vision, brand identity, and goal. What does Decathlon have in store? To find out, FashionUnited travelled to Paris, France, at Decathlon's invitation. The French sports fashion retailer shared its future plans at the Accor Arena, the stadium hosting the basketball and gymnastics finals of the 2024 Olympic Games. FashionUnited also had the opportunity to visit the first store representing Decathlon’s new vision.

Decathlon returns to the drawing board for a clearer vision

It's Tuesday, March 12, and at precisely 10:30 AM, the international audience is seated, eager to admire Decathlon's new ideas. The presentation is in English, but translation equipment is widely available for those who prefer to follow in their native language. As the lights dim and the welcome music gives way to an uptempo beat, two acrobats and BMX riders take the stage. A basketball player continues the performance, weaving through various tricks between two screens that switch more rapidly, until the player can no longer keep up. This reflects the message with which CEO Barbara Coppola begins: The (sports) world is not standing still and changes (far too) quickly.

"Change is also the story of Decathlon," Coppola continues. "It's time to make more impact because we have a goal to achieve: making sport accessible to everyone, as sport is for everyone." This ambition has been on paper since 1976 and is characterised today by the large, blue shoebox stores that, until recently, served all sports segments with 49 brands. The extensive brand portfolio ensures a diverse range. But, is a larger range always better, Decathlon's management wondered. The answer: No. What now? Where does Decathlon want to go?

New strategy: Decathlon evolves into a 'multi-specialist company'

The board returned to the drawing board and delved into its history books. "Decathlon has always believed in the important role of sport for a healthier and happier society," the CEO shared. Decathlon aims to make a positive impact on society and the planet. In our rapidly changing world, the company needed to step up to continue navigating the sports landscape. Or, as Coppola puts it, "To further evolve as a 'multi-specialist company' under the motto 'Move People Through The Wonders of Sports'." The new strategy includes an enhanced customer experience where online and offline intersect, significant sustainability ambitions, and a general modernisation of the company.

To pursue this new strategy, Decathlon reduces its brand portfolio to 12 brands to fully leverage the brand's potential and offer consumers more clarity. These brands serve the nine specialised areas and include the in-house brands Quechua (mountain sports), Tribord (water and wind sports), Rockrider (outdoor cycling), Domyos (fitness), Kuikma (racquet sports), Kipsta (team sports), Caperlan (outdoor sports), B’twin (urban mobility), and Inesis (precision sports). Additionally, the portfolio contains 4 'expert brands': Van Rysel, Simond, Kiprun, and Sologna.

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Celine Del Genes, CCO of Decathlon, during the unveiling of the new logo. Credits: FashionUnited

The new strategy also comes with a new brand identity that honours Decathlon’s history and represents its passion for sport worldwide. The logo includes an 'orbit' symbolising the arc-shaped path of an object, like a planet around a star. "Decathlon's 'orbit' is inspired by the design of our [Decathlon’s] own world," Chief Customer Officer Celine Del Genes explains. It incorporates the curve of the letter C and represents the commitment to circularity. The peak in the logo symbolises a mountain to highlight the connection with nature and the ambition to reach new heights. The familiar blue colour is refreshed and paired with a slightly darker shade, complemented by a fresh apple green and white colour palette.

The physical store gets a digital twist: an immersive experience

Decathlon aims to form a 'community' and connect everyone who loves sport. To achieve this, the blue shoebox needs to be opened, Coppola explains. Thus, the management designed a completely new store concept characterised by a 'digital first' mentality. Upon entering the store, visitors are welcomed on the 'homepage' where Decathlon’s vision is once again emphasised with the question: 'Are you ready to play?' From here, one can go three ways: to the workshop for item repairs, to the reception for questions, returns, or orders, and to the first floor to score products.

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The camping corner in the new store. Credits: FashionUnited
The fitting area in the new store. Credits: FashionUnited
The fitting area in the new store. Credits: FashionUnited

All sports segments are presented in groups, making it easier to navigate through various sports. The physical store will resemble a showroom more, as fewer items of the same kind are displayed. Moreover, Decathlon utilises more presentations, displaying mannequins with equipment at each corner where a new sport begins. Similarly, diverse sports are highlighted throughout the aisles. The French sports fashion retailer hopes to inspire consumers to move more or try a different sport. Inspiration is also a theme in the redesigned fitting rooms, which are given a cosier appearance. Decathlon opts to install blue pouffes and a counter in the fitting area, creating a 'real moment' for the fitting experience, as explained during the tour. Blue blocks serving as service points are located throughout the store.

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De discovery station. Credits: Decathlon

The immersive customer experience primarily comes from scannable QR codes found throughout the store. Want to book a repair? Scan a QR code at the workshop. Need more information about a product? Scan the QR code on the price display. You will be redirected to the website where all product information is displayed. The price displays are also digitised. If an item's price changes or goes on sale, it is automatically updated, eliminating the need for staff to replace paper tags. The store also features various 'discovery stations' - a service point where consumers can place an item on the holder and see all product information on the screen; from available sizes to stock levels and from colour options to reviews. If two items are placed on the holder, they are compared.

Sustainability remains a key focus

The new store concept, and the new strategy, further emphasise the aim for zero emissions by 2050. Emphasis is placed on repairability by introducing various repair points throughout the store. Decathlon also redesigns products to make it easier to repair them or give them a second life. Moreover, the French sports fashion retailer also offers the option to rent items. Decathlon will roll out the new store concept to over 1.700 stores worldwide in the coming months. For instance, the Decathlon Amsterdam Arena is one of the first stores equipped with the new concept.

FashionUnited visited Decathlon at the company’s invitation in Paris.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.NL. Translation and edit from Dutch into English by Veerle Versteeg