Decathlon opens 35,000 sq ft store with testing zones for sports equipment

French retailer Decathlon's first store has testing zones for equipment

The 35,000 sq ft store, almost the size of 30 five-room HDB flats, lets customers try sports equipment. ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

French sporting goods retailer Decathlon, known for its accessible prices and mega stores, opens its first store here - and its flagship store in South-east Asia - on Saturday.

At 35,000 sq ft, the store at Viva Business Park, formerly known as Chai Chee Technopark, will be the largest in the region, almost the size of 30 five-room HDB flats.

The store has testing zones where customers can try out products before buying them. For example, there is a testing zone for team sports, with goal posts, basketball hoops and backboards for customers to practise shooting hoops.

The store also has a trampoline as well as a bicycle repair workshop, where customers can have their bicycle - of any brand - repaired for a fee.

More than 95,000 apparel, equipment and footwear products - from tennis rackets to scuba-diving equipment - will be available at the store. These products cover more than 50 types of sports and will be sold under the company's 20 in-house labels, such as its hiking brand Quechua and its team sports brand Kipsta.

For example, customers will be able to buy a Kipsta Tarmak Magic Jam basketball, made of rubber and containing a liquid solution that transforms into foam if the ball is punctured, for $19.90.

Another product is the Tribord Easybreath Mask, which costs $85.90. It allows snorkellers to breathe underwater through their nose.

All products are designed by the chain's in-house research and development teams. These items are "guaranteed" to be 20 to 40 per cent cheaper than those at other sports retailers, says Mr Bastien Grandgeorge, 37, chief executive officer of Decathlon Singapore.

He says: "Sports should not be expensive and Singaporeans should be able to access high-performance sports equipment and apparel at an accessible price point."

Decathlon plans to open another 20 outlets in Singapore within the next 10 years and hire up to 1,000 staff here to work in them, he adds.

"We chose Singapore for the flagship store because of its world-class infrastructure and talented workforce. We also expect to fill some management positions."

Apart from an interview, potential employees have to attend a "Decathlon sports day" - a relatively common hiring practice in Decathlon stores around the world - during which they have to take part in a team sport such as football or basketball. They also have to attend a casual lunch with the store's leadership team and chat with the store manager.

Says Mr Grandgeorge: "Our sports days allow us to get to know each and every candidate, see how they perform as a team and whether they have the vitality and responsibility to work for Decathlon."

Since 2012, Singaporeans have been able to buy Decathlon products from its e-commerce site. The store here features a pick-up point where customers can collect their online purchases. Items in the physical store cost the same as those online.

The flagship store will open daily from 9am to 10pm.

Decathlon was founded in France in 1976 by businessman Michel Leclercq. It now has more than 1,000 stores in 26 countries, such as Britain, China and India, as well as retail points in Thailand.

On how Decathlon may impact other sports retailers here, Mr Samuel Tan, 54, course manager of retail management at Temasek Polytechnic's business school, says: "Decathlon is known for its value pricing and product variety. Its products also tend to be innovative, although online feedback about their quality has been mixed.

"Nonetheless, it will be a strong player in the market and other local sports retailers, such as Royal Sporting House and the sports shops in Queensway Shopping Centre, may need to make price adjustments to counter the competition."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline Decathlon opens 35,000 sq ft store with testing zones for sports equipment. Subscribe