Exclusive interview with Michel Kappler, CEO at Decathlon for Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia, about their expansion activities and experiences during the pandemic.
Please give us an overview of your brand. What makes your brand stand out in comparison to your competition?
The mission of Decathlon is to “sustainably make the pleasure and benefits of sport accessible to many”.
We are trying to satisfy the needs of all sport users by giving them the best possible answer through our offer. This includes up to 100 different sports in our omnichannel catalog, our innovations, and our affordable prices.
The environmental dimension has also become a priority for several years. Protecting people and their planet has a strong meaning in our business and is fundamental for our future.
How many stores do you currently have globally and in the SEE region? Have you had any new store openings or new market entries during the pandemic and where?
Decathlon is present in 70 countries worldwide, with around 1.800 stores. I am leading a part of the SEE region and we are in Croatia (since fall 2014), Slovenia (since spring 2016), and Serbia (since the end of 2019).
We have 15 stores already opened including four additional ones we opened during the pandemic period. This includes Varaždin (June 2020), New Belgrade (November 2020, Pula (March 2021) and Novi Sad (April 2021).
Are you planning any new store openings and where? Do you plan to expand to new markets and if so where?
We plan to set up Decathlon as close as possible to our customers and therefore to cover the most important cities, from the moment this makes sense for our business.
What is the typical size of your stores and what locations are interesting for your further expansion? Which retail locations in your opinion are performing the best?
We have different formats, from “Click & Collect” point to large stores of several thousand square meters. The ratio “profitability/footfall” must be considered. A Shopping center and/or a powerful Retail park certainly attracts more visitors. But the operating costs are often very high as a result. With our growing notoriety, we have the possibility of establishing ourselves in all kinds of commercial zones.
How has the pandemic affected your company and your retail sector in general? How have you been tackling the challenges and have you introduced any innovations in your business?
First and foremost, we are committed to guaranteeing the safety of our employees and our customers. Which was not easy during this period of uncertainty.
Of course, the pandemic affected us and forced us to reorganize ourselves and develop new distribution channels for our customers.
Did the pandemic change the consumer habits within your retail sector?
The pandemic has accelerated changes in consumption habits. Online shopping has increased exponentially, of course during the physical closure of our points of sale, but it is a fundamental trend that continues now. The aim is to offer all possible purchasing options to our customers (physical, digital…), who are free to choose the one that suits them.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, what forms of marketing do you use and what form of marketing is the most successful for your brand at this moment?
We mainly used digital communication, via websites and social networks. During the complete lockdown, some of our employees offered sports sessions and/or sports advice online, which was a great success.
Because of its speed and simplicity, online shopping is taking an increasingly important part, that’s for sure. But nothing replaces the human contact, the visual, the touch and the test of a product live before purchase. We will always have a part of our customers willing to physically visit the points of sale. We must transform our points of sale even more into places of life and exchange with our customers.
What is next for your brand?
To ensure that we can continue to promote and sell sport products all over the world.
We, at Decathlon, believe that the future of retail belongs to those who will be agile and flexible, who create omnichannel experiences, and who are open to all partners…