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Decathlon Poole - A Perfect Example Of Everything Wrong With Retail Today

Last week on a short break away I was subjected to a perfect example of everything that is wrong with retail today.

clothes and shoes

Being a very outdoorsy person my 12 year old son wants dark green or camouflage (his favourite colours) trousers and a jacket for Christmas. Searching on the internet I came across Decathlon’s range of Hunting and Fishing clothing which looked worth a try. My son is very tall and slim so finding trousers that fit him is very challenging (which a lot of Mums out there will relate to), he has to have larger sizes to fit the leg length but they are then far too big in the waist so we tend to stick to the brand and sizes we know and if he needs something different we tend to go to the shop so that he can try everything on first before buying because 9 times out of 10 the clothes won't fit.

An unpleasant customer experience

With our nearest Decathlon being 80 miles away in Oxford we waited until our short break away in Weymouth to visit the Poole store just 32 miles away from our lodge. After an hours drive taking us through the centre of Poole we eventually made it to Decathlon. After 5 minutes of searching the shop for their hunting or fishing section I went up to the check out and asked where I would find those sections because I was unable to. With English not being his first language the young lad said “don’t have them, go to other store”.

Taking a deep breath remembering the long journey to get here in the first place I asked how I can find out which sections each Decathlon has because it doesn’t tell you that on the internet and I didn’t want another wasted journey. Obviously unable to understand what I was asking the lad called over his manager. I repeated my question and with English skills barely any better than the young lads the manager tried to explain that the website doesn’t tell you what sections each store has you have to look up each item you want to look at and check stock availability in each store.

Failed Missions & Values

"And there it is! How can retail expect to compete with the internet when even their own staff’s attitude is just to order it on the internet."

The Manager asked me what I wanted and I said various items from the fishing and hunting sections such as green trousers. She brought an item from the hunting section up on the website and informed me that the only Decathlon store in the UK to stock that item is in London Surrey Quays. Feeling very confused as to why the only people needing hunting gear would be those living in the centre of London I said “Gosh that’s too far for us to go to” her response in a very irritated and exasperated tone was “Why didn’t you just order on the internet?”

And there it is! How can retail expect to compete with the internet when even their own staff’s attitude is just to order it on the internet. Throughout this process not once did the staff ask what we needed, could we perhaps find items that would meet the same need in other sections of the shop like hiking gear. No doubt we could have found green trousers and jackets in the hiking section (Cross sell and up sell) but by this point I had lost all interest.

Reading Decathlon’s mission and values you can see how with that one experience the brand failed on every level to meet their mission and values :




Number of Stores per Country

Decathlon's main mission is to make sport accessible to as many people as we can. We would like to help, inspire and guide you through your sports experiences. We believe that being active and discovering new sports every day is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Let's do some sports together, as together is always more fun!



Vitality is Life, intense activity, energy, drive and vigour. Our employees are full of vitality as they have, first and foremost, a positive mindset and are bursting with energy. They are enthusiastic, they love creating and innovating, and relentlessly strive to improve and make things around them change.


Being responsible is about making decisions and making sure they are acted upon. Our employees are fully responsible for their decisions, both in terms of their team and their customers. Responsibility is also about anticipating the challenges facing society and orienting our actions towards sustainable development. And it is also our responsibility to guarantee the safety of our customers and employees all over the world.Get Inspired

When my husband and I commented between us that this Decathlon is very different to the one we went to in France the manager said “well what do you expect they have been running for 50 years in France but Decathlon has only been in the UK 5 years.” On their website Decathlon has a timeline and states that the first UK store opened in London in 1999 - almost 20 years ago! So this is not a new to the UK issue.

Having been in sales and marketing for 27 years I’ve been told on many occasions that one of my unique gifts is my ability to conduct cold calling and sell anything to anyone. To me it is all about passion. If you believe in what you are selling and are enthusiastic about what you are selling then people will be inspired to go along with you but if you have no interest in what you are trying to sell, are totally apathetic and obviously do not want to be there like the staff in Decathlon in Poole were, then no amount of effort is going to get you that sale. If I don’t have passion for what I am selling then I cannot sell a thing, I won’t even attempt to.

Youngsters haven't experienced real customer service

It is a real shame because Decathlon meets a very real need in the UK, the store we went to in France was fabulous and we were delighted to discover that they also had stores in the UK. Their mission and values as a company are great but they need to do some serious work on recruiting staff that are passionate about sport - let’s face it there is no shortage of young people passionate about sport - and they need to invest in training their staff to be customer focused.

Unfortunately young people today have grown up in a world where customer focus is all but gone so those of us that grew up in the days where stores knew their customers and cared about their customers having a good experience really need to teach the younger generation what customer service is. They don’t seem to see the connection that they are there to provide customer service, it is the only differentiator they have over the internet and without that differentiator they will be out of a job when the store inevitably closes so they have an invested interest in being pleasant to their customers.

This is a perfect example of why putting staff and customers first is good for business.

Retail have become fulfilment houses and with the internet meeting the same fulfilment needs the only way they can survive on the High Street is by providing excellent customer service and making it a pleasant experience for the customers. It’s hard enough getting through the traffic in the town centres and finding a place to park in the jam packed car parks without having rude and obnoxious staff asking you why you didn’t just order stuff on the internet.

I will now go and find a small specialist hunting or fishing shop in my local area where I can potentially build an ongoing relationship with the staff to meet my sons needs going forward and although this may mean me spending slightly more it is worth it to support local businesses and better than repeating the unpleasant and time wasting experience of visiting a Decathlon Store in the UK.


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