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Decathlon looks to “digital first” strategy

DecathlonAmazon’s local launch hasn’t tempered the mood of Decathlon CEO Olivier Robinet, who welcomed a packed house to the launch of its first Australian store in Tempe yesterday.

Checkout lines had begun snaking around the entrance to the 3,800sqm store by mid-day, with local shoppers taking to the aisles to test out everything from rollerblades to exercise balls.

The store took longer than expected to construct, but Robinet said he’s pleased with the initial reception to the brand as he and his team look to cash in on the key summer trading period before expanding further in 2018.

Melbourne will be next, with a site already locked in, but the international entrant is still finding it difficult to lock down big-box sites that meet its specifications and has yet to detail further plans.

A new e-commerce website will likely be launched before the second store in April or May though to better synergise its online offer with the growing physical presence.

It’s part of what Robinet calls his “digital first” strategy, which to the surprise of some customers on Tuesday, also involves signing up to its free membership program before making a purchase.

“We’re a digital first company…if you want to have a special link, if you want to have lower prices, for example if you have a quality issue you can let all your members know in one hour with no cost – if you don’t know who bought [it] then it’s expensive,” Robinet said.

“So we decrease our costs to decrease our price…to help us give our customers the best prices.”

Asked whether the sign-up requirement would be a deterrent to new customers, Robinet said it’s no different to what Amazon are asking shoppers to do before they can shop on its platform and that it only takes 40 seconds to sign up.

“We explain why and they know this will result in a better quality service and a better price,” he explained.

The membership driven approach will also help to enable services such as seven-day in-home product testing and a 365-day refund period on purchases.

Price was a prevalent theme in Decathlon’s early communication with media and prospective customers and remains so in the new store, with at least half a dozen price comparison mannequins set-up through the store that compare single items from Asics, Nike, Bikeexchange and others with full outfits or kits from Decathlon of the same price.

In one case a pair of Nike women’s leggings (valued at $170 by Decathlon) was compared to an outfit from its Domyos brand, including leggings, sports bra, shirt, bag, shoes, socks and a sweat towel for $168.

“We’ll listen to everyone on price, range and layout and if it’s really useful for people to understand what Decathlon products are we’ll continue to do it…I imagine like Aldi 20 years ago or IKEA, you need to explain your concept at the beginning so that’s what we’ve tried to do,” he said.

“Our prices are so low compared to other people.”

The Tempe location also comes equipped with indoor and outdoor testing areas, which were being used extensively by shoppers on Tuesday throughout the store.

This will be available 24 hours a day, at least as the store finds its feet, with local customers being asked to leave their recommendations for what the store’s opening hours should be moving forward.

Decathlon has also begun its community engagement program in earnest and is working with local cricket and soccer teams on funding various local initiatives to begun embedding its brand in the Australian market.

This culminated in the presence of a sausage sizzle outside of the new store on Tuesday, a borrowed but classic Australian big-box retail tradition.

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