Decathlon is a family-owned company founded in 1976 in Lille, France and it was born out of the idea that the best sports products should be accessible to everyone. In this interview, RLI sits down with Eric Mazillier, CEO of Decathlon UK to learn more about the business and what its future goals are.
At its core, Decathlon is for sports lovers, the team players, the beginners and the fanatics. Regardless of race, religion or creed, the brand was created to support everyone through their sports journey by providing expertly designed kit and equipment at unbeatable value.
Good examples of this include the tennis racket used by Gael Monfis to win the Adelaide tennis tournament, the future Kipsta ball that will be used in the French Ligue 1 by superstars like Lionel Messi and Neymar from next season, and the Van Rysel equipment that will be used during the next Tour de France by the Cofidis team.
“Our members of staff are all sports enthusiasts who have turned their passion into a job. We come from all over the world – a community made up of semi-pros, casual participants and novices,” explains Eric Mazillier, CEO of Decathlon UK. “Our mission is to help more people in the UK get more physically active and healthier through sport.”
Today the company operates 2,080 stores across 56 countries and they have almost 100,000 Decathletes in their employment, it is figures like these that make the company the largest sports retailer in the world.
Recently the brand has overseen openings across the UK in Cardiff, Kent and Glasgow. These openings were concessions in Tesco superstores, allowing them to reach more customers, creating a more rounded shopping experience for guests, who can do their weekly shop, as well as browse all of Decathlon’s sportswear, all under one roof.
Outside of the UK, they unveiled their latest Decathlon Malaysia site on 14 May, launching a 4,000sq ft space at The Shoppes at Four Seasons Place. This new store sells 12,000 exclusive products, covering more than 60 sports such as cycling, martial arts, racket sports, skating and many more. Ideal for campers, the store is now incorporated with VR tech where customers can experience their best-selling camping tents before purchasing. The site even comes with a vegan-friendly restaurant as Agrain opens its seventh outlet in Malaysia to make eating healthy simple and accessible by oven-baking meals for its customers.
“Looking forward, we have an exciting year ahead with further growth and expansion across the globe. We are opening new stores to help widen our in-person customer experience and product offering. We will also rapidly increase the speed of which we reduce our impact on the planet with more eco-design products and a real offer based on a circular economy,” Mazillier highlights.
The brand has a clear vision of where they want to be in the future and they are always reinventing themselves and considering new markets based on consumer demand and opportunity.
Utilising materials from more sustainable sources is at the forefront of their product design. This, combined with manufacturing processes that have a smaller impact on the planet, is how Decathlon paves the way for new product development. By taking an Ecodesign approach to product development, whereby the environment is considered from the very first design stages, Decathlon is at the cutting edge of the market, and importantly, stays true to the brand by being helpful to the planet and its people.
“Our Sports Labs in France are full of expert product engineers who use cutting edge innovation to create new products designed specifically to meet a consumer need. We create our products with real people in mind. One example I’m really proud of is our recent release of the first ever post-mastectomy sports bra,” says Mazillier.
Discussing the role of social media, Eric speaks about how the team at Decathlon believe that social media should be a community where brands can connect and interact with customers in an open and genuine way. He goes onto say that social media for them is, ironically, about using modern technology to highlight the human side of the brand.
“At the heart of our success is the real and genuine love and passion for sports. All our key differentiators revolve around this, from our people in-store who offer specialist expert advice and help to our customers across 70 different sports, to Decathlon’s main brand objective of making sports accessible for the many.”
As he looks to what comes next, Mazillier feels the greatest challenge for Decathlon will be achieving their desired growth in a sustainable way.
“As a large global retailer we have a huge responsibility to protect our planet, to ensure that future generations can enjoy the privileges that we take for granted today,” Mazillier concludes.