Decathlon introduces in-store test & buy option in France
French sport retailer Decathlon is sometimes seen as a benchmark in customer relationship terms, and its experiments in this area are closely scrutinised by retail professionals. For over a year, Decathlon has been tweaking a new “test & buy” option, in other words the possibility of testing at home products chosen in the stores without paying for them at check-out.
The test & buy option was first trialled last year at a pilot store in the north of France, and has now been deployed in 20 branches across the country. Specifically, in five stores in the vicinity of Lille, across the Paris region, at La Roche-sur-Yon and Bordeaux, and in six other stores in the Rhône-Alpes region. Customers of these stores can test the products they choose under real conditions and, if they are not satisfied, they can return them within seven days, otherwise the products are automatically charged to them. To benefit from this option, customers must provide their bank details and hold an account with Decathlon.
The French sport retailer is trying to further facilitate and trigger in-store purchases, bypassing the price barrier and the fear that the product may not suit the customer. What is unique about this initiative is that it focuses on brick-and-mortar retail, when product testing at home is currently one of e-tail’s most popular features, as for example with the try-at-home service offered by lingerie label Etam on its e-shop.
Decathlon, whose revenue has reached €11 billion, is creating ad hoc in-store presentations for the products eligible for the test & buy option, whether bikes, running shoes, tennis rackets or tents. It is also introducing more and more product test areas within the stores, signposted by orange lines on the floor, like a mini roller park with guardrails, a long running lane or a mini climbing wall. Most of the stores’ aisles have areas dedicated to product testing, rather than having customers do so in sports facilities close to the store, as in the past.
It is also another way for Decathlon to keep promoting its own brands. According to French business weekly Challenges, Decathlon domestic market sales will fall this year by 4% (as opposed to a 3% growth in 2017), notably due to the retailer’s policy of prioritising its own brands to the detriment of leading sport labels. According to Challenges, Nike, Adidas and their ilk will account for just under 20% of Decathlon’s sales in 2018 (-2.5%).
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