CSA Closer Look: Decathlon runs physical store on mobile tech

French sporting goods retailer Decathlon is blending the brick-and-mortar experience with iPhones as it looks to make a splash with its first full-fledged U.S. store.

The value-priced, vertically-integrated retailer, which operates some 1,500 locations in 49 countries, has opened its second U.S. location, a 47,000-sq. ft. “experiential retail center” in an old Toys “R” Us space in the San Francisco suburb of Emeryville. It features Decathlon’s exclusive lineup of private brands and covers nearly every very conceivable sport and outdoor and fitness category, from golf and running to snorkeling and fishing. (In March 2018, Decathlon opened a 8,313-sq.-ft. “lab” store in San Francisco.)

As part of Decathlon’s next-generation brick-and-mortar efforts, the retailer runs store operations in its Emeryville location via iPhones. This includes activities such as payments, clienteling, inventory management, fulfillment, and order routing. Chain Store Age recently took a live interactive tour of the store via video link.

Each of the store’s 40 associates is equipped with a corporate iPhone running the NewStore omnichannel platform, which includes an integrated, cloud-based order management system and mobile POS solution. One of the most interesting aspects of the store environment are mobile checkout stations.

Rather than wait in line at a fixed POS terminal, customers can approach any store associate when they are ready to make a purchase. The associate can place a customer’s item or entire shopping cart inside a mobile checkout station, which is equipped with an internal RFID scanner that automatically reads all the items.

The associate then uses their iPhone to scan a unique QR code on a static sticker placed top of the mobile checkout station, which receives all the price data on the items inside. This opens a scrollable shopping cart in the employee app, which can also be used to scan individual products.

Customers have several options for payment. A Verifone payment device attached to the back of the associate iPhone can read or swipe credit, debit, and gift cards. While the store does not directly accept cash payments, customers can insert cash into a GiftWise Cash-2-Card self-service kiosk that will automatically print a gift card in any denomination.

In addition, transactions can be completed in the app via Apple Pay, or shoppers can use a feature called NewStore Checkout to read a QR code on the associate device with their own iPhone, and then automatically complete the transaction with Apple Pay. Customers can also schedule home delivery and click-and-collect pickups. Receipts can be printed in-store or sent to customers digitally.

The NewStore system is connected to store security systems, so items that have been paid for will not set off security alarms when a customer exits the store.

Beyond checking out customer purchases, associates can also use their iPhones to offer endless aisle inventory access to shoppers. By scanning an item’s barcode, associates can inform customers of all available colors, sizes and other variations of the product, and locate any desired SKU. If a specific item is not in stock, the associate can have it shipped to the store and filled for a home delivery or in-store pickup.

This capability also enables Decathlon to track and move inventory anywhere in the enterprise via iPhone. Inventory data is updated from a cloud-based back end and surfaced to the associate app.

“The NewStore platform connects shoppers to our brand and exclusive products,” said Tony Leon, CIO & CTO, Decathlon USA. “With real omnichannel in the hands of mobile-powered store associates, we can deliver a customer experience that truly drives our mission of making sports accessible to everyone. NewStore allows Decathlon to put more associates on the store floor where they belong. They are armed with iPhones and ready to help customers, as opposed to being stuck behind a cash-wrap waiting to process transactions with a clunky old POS.”