The first 70 customers through the door of Decathlon’s Coventry store, which opened in October, received a 70 per cent discount on sports gear. Why 70? Because that’s the number of sports the shop stocks gear for, from kayaking to mountaineering, surfing, judo and archery. And cycling.
The Coventry opening is the 13th for Decathlon on these shores – about ten per cent of the number the retailer intends to open.
Marketing director John Butcher confirmed to BikeBiz the ‘100-stores for the UK’ aim is genuine, with UK MD Steve Dykes a key driver of the ambitious target.
“We’ve opened nine stores in three years, which is a vast increase on the amount we’ve opened previously.”
Why now? “The market was saturated four or five years ago in the UK. Now the number of players has reduced and the market is no longer over inflated. Our aims are possible.”
Decathlon is all about being a ‘gateway to sport’, pitched at entrants to sport, with staffers that play the sports they advise and sell in-store.
The retailer hosts events like ‘Discover Decathlon Days’ that reach a sometimes-elusive family market.
Celebrities like Denise Lewis have been signed up to support the drive to reach households. Butcher explains: “Why Denise Lewis? She’s a mum, she’s got integrity and she’s a gold medal winner. She’s a perfect advocate for us,” says Butcher.
“We have a unique offering, with 70 sports under one roof. But cycling is core to us and it’s been the biggest growth sport since the Olympics. We have a cycle section in every Decathlon store.”
Aside from retailing, Decathlon, or rather Oxylane, is of course a huge manufacturer of bicycles – meaning the firm brings its B’Twin range from concept to consumer. That is something that allows, BikeBiz is told, that customer feedback to flow easily back to designers and then be used to develop ranges.
And then there’s that other aspect of Oxylane – the ‘Oxylane Village’ project.
BikeBiz spoke to UK Oxylane Village director Luke Fillingham, days before the request for planning permission was submitted for the Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire site, the first Oxylane village plotted for these shores. The village is set to include cycle paths, football pitches, tennis courts, parks, playgrounds and more for a wide variety of sports.
“It’s a new concept for the UK,” Fillingham tells BikeBiz. “There are ten Oxylane villages in France. The concept started around the year 2000, just over ten years old, and its purpose is to make sport accessible to all. That is dependant on a few things: Desirability – attracting people to new activities – and accessibility – the right place at the right time at the right price. We do that very well in stores, with product appropriate for customers entering the different sports.”
“The villages go above and beyond what you find the stores. They are providing the facilities for people to be active and the equipment – but also the opportunity. It’s very important that people can try the product before they buy it. So they can borrow a bike and actually cycle it before they go on to the road. It means people will have the chance to ride a bike – maybe for the first time – in a safe managed environment on cycle paths and tracks – and the opportunity to ride a new bike – not one that you’ve borrowed from a neighbour, which maybe has a flat tyre or no brakes. And hopefully after trying it they’ll say ‘this is fantastic, I want to do it again’,” adds Fillingham.
Whether the trade has much to fear from Oxylane Villages or the Decathlon opening programme is up for debate. Taking the company at its word, it’s all about introducing consumers to cycling (and other sports), but with quality product, the firm will be fast to insist. If it does introduce more people to the world of cycling then, optimistically speaking, it could be a good thing for everyone – manufacturers, distributors and rival shops alike. Tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org