SINGAPORE - A robot that takes inventory in a 24-hour store, an indoor patch of land with four different surfaces to test running shoes, and an in-store conveyor belt that transports products as soon as they are ordered online.
These features might have once been the stuff of imagination, but they now exist at French sporting goods retailer Decathlon's largest and most advanced Singapore store, which opens on Saturday (Jan 19).
Called the Decathlon Singapore Lab and located at Stadium Boulevard, the store is set to shake up the shopping experience in Singapore with its 5,000 sq m of retail space, which includes areas such as a hiking path with a gravel surface for the testing of products in-store.
The store also hosts an Active Health Lab in partnership with Sport Singapore, where users can take a free health assessment.
There are free-to-play areas next to the store as well, and a conveyor belt manages online orders so that Decathlon can deliver its complete range of products in just two hours in Singapore. Shoppers can also order online and collect their items at their preferred store within two hours for free.
Decathlon Singapore chief executive Yves Claude said the store has been named Decathlon Singapore Lab "because a lab is a disruptive and innovative place where we test new solutions".
Speaking at its media launch on Friday, he added: "We have to give new reasons for customers to come back to our store."
The Decathlon Singapore Lab is the fourth Decathlon Experience store here. Its 4,000 sq m showroom in Joo Koon used to be the biggest. The company also has two click-and-collect stores.
In 2017, it welcomed foot traffic of two million to its three stores at Viva Business Park in Bedok, City Square Mall and Fairprice Hub in Joo Koon.
Last May, during the signing of the memorandum of understanding between Decathlon and Sport Singapore, SportSG chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin had noted that the store would "provide a lot of vibrancy to the Kallang area".
Elaborating on the partnership, he added: "We share a common purpose which is to make sport accessible. They come with a good price point, high-quality products, (and) most importantly, they come with ideas on how to improve participation."
Decathlon Singapore Lab store leader Nathaniel Gregory said he hopes the Kallang outlet will change the perception of retail for both shoppers and staff.
"Retail used to be very monotonous. Now because our customers are moving to more digital means of shopping, our jobs will also have to evolve," he said.
"In the last three years my job was very brick-and-mortar style. Tomorrow I need to learn about SEO (search engine optimisation) and digital marketing."
James Walton, sports business group leader for Deloitte Singapore and South-east Asia, believes Decathlon's growth here can encourage more participation in sport.
Noting that the Singapore market used to be dominated by the likes of Nike and adidas, he added: "Decathlon is offering cheaper alternatives for people who are just getting into sport or not so concerned about the brand or having the latest sneaker, and just want something functional. They've filled a gap in the market - it's like shopping in an Ikea, (where) you go there and you've got everything in one place.
"To have a retail supplier out there providing sport clothing and shoes at a price that allows so many of these people to access is definitely beneficial."