Times are changing and more and more manufacturers are anticipating a decline in sales of new products. Whether from pure ecological commitment, economic opportunity or to adapt their message to the challenges of our time, entire sections of the industry are beginning their “ecological transition”. This is the case of Decathlon, even if those responsible for “circular” issues immediately decide on this discourse, remembering that since its establishment, the French brand has always wanted to push the reuse of equipment in sports.
It is true that the Trocathlon operations launched in 1986 (sports flea markets organized in the parks of shops, where individuals can sell and buy second-hand equipment) have established themselves as highlights of brand and since written in his DNA.
Except that since 1976, when the first Decathlon opened near Lille, the group has internationalized and grown a lot, with a wide range, an emphasis on price accessibility, and millions of products sold. every year which is not only good for the planet. No, unfortunately, we cannot do 13.8 billion euros in world turnover (2021) without polluting and emitting a good amount of CO2.
A huge ecological impact
However, the French team – like all of us – is leading the charge on global warming and its evil deeds. An event that has a growing impact on the business of the manufacturer of BTwin bicycles, Quechua tents, Nabaji swimsuits and Tarmak basketballs. This is why the circular economy and environmental issues, key trending words if ever there were, were written in bold during the brand’s last major event, where all its new products were presented.
“All our actions have an impact and we feel a real responsibility as a designer and distributor. Of course, the Decathlon event has a great impact on the ecology. We cannot ignore it and must work on it to reduce it. This means making real commitments that are important and effectively measuring that impact to know where to act.” recognized Marie Chaillou, responsible for brand communication in sustainable development.
And these calculations are irrefutable: approximately 80% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of products, from raw materials to their transformation into finished products. “So getting every product available as long as possible is the most effective thing to have”, added the manager. Especially since we have to add the large amount of pollution generated by industrial processes, or the large amount of water consumed.
The trash as a last resort
That’s why, at Decathlon, we put the focus on circularity, so that it becomes an opportunity – including commercial – and not a constraint. “Products should have many lives, many users”said Anthony Le Mens, product second life manager. “What we see is that climate change and energy uncertainty change the cards. It has an impact on the availability of materials, it creates tensions in transportation. And at the same time, we rely on agreement to Net Zero by 2050, and we have in-store employees who no longer accept that products that can still be used end up in the trash. At the same time, our customers are changing their habits, in the practice of their sports, but also in their consumption. . It’s a whole set of things that push us to adapt”he continued.
This is how we know that until now, in 2022, more than 190,000 repaired products have been sold in Decathlon, representing 500 tons of CO2 equivalents not emitted into the atmosphere. To match, Decathlon is also interestedupcycling to recycle obsolete equipment – a partnership, for example, allows a company to make backpacks by reusing the canvases of its inflatable kayaks -, but also for – rent.
“We have launched many rental offers that have found their audience and we support them with services. For example, we rent a weight bench and the package includes the advice of a coach. We also offer, for for € 3 per month, the rental of children’s bicycles with the possibility of changing the size of their growth. With these offers, we avoid buying new products that can only be have a life”determined Julie Delignon, who manages the circular economy, while these rental offers will be developed throughout the brand and will soon be offered online.
The repurchasing of products and repackaging is at the center of the process
And to facilitate second-hand and refurbished goods, Decathlon will make its offers to buy back used equipment, on bicycles, backpacks, tents, diving equipment, snowshoes, and so on. In addition to the voucher, it is possible to receive the amount of the sale directly by bank transfer and soon it will be possible to get a trade-in offer and validate it directly on the brand’s website. Each product is then diagnosed, repaired and upgraded if necessary, then returned to the market with a 24-month warranty.
Many activities that, in order to have an impact on the environmental footprint of the group, do not remain marginal. Asked about their goals, the company’s executives announced that the goal is to generate a 5% turnover from the sale of repaired products in 2026, and as much thanks to rental offers, i.e. 10% in general. It may not seem like much, but it is – according to Decathlon – “an ambitious goal that will allow the whole company to be dynamic around these projects”. Specialized teams are formed (such as the Brétigny-sur-Orge site where 12 employees are dedicated to reconditioning) and projects are set up, so that second-hand and reconditioned products are offered to customers directly on the website. and in the app. And then at the same time, sales of nines can be contracted. However, less production also means less impact on the environment.
Therefore, Decathlon also expects an increase in its income from its repairs and workshops. “When we survey people, we get the impression that only Decathlon repairs bicycles. We want to see this, because our workshops repair many product categories and accept the all brands, not just products sold in our stores. We have real repair expertise and legitimacy. We repair tents, kayaks, we maintain snowshoes, and more.”, wants to meet Julie Delignon. Decathlon plans to recruit 500 more technicians by 2026.
To the question “how do you want to be with your steps”, the Decathlon managers answered together: “Clearly, the first criterion for a second-hand purchase from us is the price, ahead of the ecological conviction. So we will love it if the government helps us, for example, reducing VAT on products second-hand.”.
It is difficult to reconcile technology and ecology
The answers are more evasive when asked if the brand makes commitments on the duration of availability of spare parts or the supply of repair manuals. Nothing specific, but we promised efforts in this direction. Ditto on the eco-design side. As we know, to be durable, products must be designed to be repaired. However, in Decathlon as everywhere, we want to integrate more technology. And who says that technology also says that it is more complicated and difficult to fix.
Managers assured us that the teams in charge of product design kept longevity issues in mind, without giving further details. “We also want to have, at Decathlon, the image of solid products that we can use for more than one season”, we are told. However, this year we saw a virtual reality ping-pong experience, a connected darts target, new running watches with Coros or even a kit for connecting a basketball hoop found in the catalog.
A note on the environment of textile products
“What we’re trying to do is also allow people to have informed consumption”explained Marie Chaillou. “For many years we have worked with Ademe on the environmental rating shown in many textile products in our catalog. he will buy”. More difficult to find in stores, this note is actually shown on the sheets of many products on the Decathlon site, with links to explain the method and the environmental impact of the references.
“It’s not the answer for everyone, but it’s one of the solutions that we think is important and it makes customers think about the ecological impact of their purchases. (…) And then internally, the project managers whose products show the environmental rating are naturally pushed to improve it”added the manager.
Although some points of Decathlon’s approach are open to criticism, it is difficult to dispute the fact that the eco-responsible theme is focused on as many aspects as possible within the company, even in its loyalty program that rewards those purchases, the deposit of opinion, but also sports practice and allows you to get bonuses when you buy a second-hand product or participate in an ecological event (for example, a cleaning operation sponsored of the brand).
Regarding the production of most of its products at the end of the world, such as the first Decathlon carbon plate running shoe (the Kiprun KD900X) made in Vietnam, Decathlon does not deny that it has progress to make, claiming that there is a desire to seize opportunities to bring its production as close as possible. An example is a factory in Nantes that produces its new high-end football boot, the Kipsta Traxium Compressor, designed to last 10 years, recyclable and partly recyclable. “The proximity to the production area that facilitates and improves the manufacturing and design process, in addition to making ecological sense for a product intended for the European market”assured us the product manager.