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CASE STUDY: Decathlon


As part of the Global Sports Sector 2023 report, RetailX looked at Decathlon’s turn to rentals to sustainably get people into sport.

Leading outdoor sports and activities retailer Decathlon covers many of the bases in sports and outdoor activities, offering everything from camping equipment through to walking and climbing gear, cycling and much more.

Founded in Lille, France in 1976, the firm sells across channels in the UK, including through 49 shops, a website and a mobile app. It is ranked Top150 in RetailX’s UK Top500 research. Despite economic headwinds that have buffeted retailers for the past 12 months, the company has seen turnover rise by 12% to €15.4bn.

To maintain growth, Decathlon has hit upon a novel idea that plays to both consumers tightened purse strings and their interest in sustainability. With more people than ever looking to take up sports, but with the cost of living making it perhaps seem too costly, the retailer has introduced a sustainable way for customers to try before they buy.

As of 2023, it is launching a rental service for large sports equipment such as kayaks, paddle boards and e-bikes in a move it says will make sports more accessible and equipment use more sustainable.

The company, which has committed more than $1mn of stock to the scheme, is aiming to make getting into sports less of a commitment by allowing people to try out new things. If they like the experience, they will shop with Decathlon. If not, then it’s one less paddleboard stuck in the back of the garage.

The sports equipment retailer initially launched the service at four branches – London’s Surrey Quays, Southampton, Poole and Glasgow Braehead. It has subsequently been rolled out across the company, such was the success of the trial.

Rentals are charged by 24-hour days. For example, the first 24-hour hire of a kayak costs £30, the second day £15 and subsequent days £10.

Sharon Poulter, rental lead for Decathlon, says: “This is a really exciting development in our work to become a more sustainable business, all the while boosting the accessibility of sports.

“Our mission is to make sports more accessible to the many, and offering rental services is definitely the most environmentally friendly way to do so. All of our rental products are refurbished or ‘like new’, creating a genuinely circular economy.

“As part of the service, we will be providing package deals, so that customers can rent everything they need for a weekend full of adventure, including e-bike and SUP or kayak combinations, at a reduced price. I look forward to growing this proposition, giving more and more people the opportunity to explore new sports.”

Decathlon sustainability leader, Chris Allen, adds: “Despite having the appetite to try sports, committing to the cost of buying gear is one of the biggest barriers to people taking up something new. “Rentals gives customers across the UK the opportunity to overcome this challenge by discovering the joy of different activities at an affordable price and in a sustainable way.”

This feature originally appeared in the Global Sports Sector 2023 report. Download the full report here.

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