I remember the first time I saw a Decathlon store. It was on one of those unending trips from Bangalore city to Hydera…, sorry, Bangalore airport.
I saw this huge hulking shed lording over the road with the name DECATHLON in large letters, accompanied by that short iconic tagline - ‘Sport for all, all for sport’.
That’s a brilliant line, I thought.
And then I shook my head. Really, do you think that folks will drive ALL the way from the city just to get a tennis racquet? What a bad business decision, I thought.
Clearly, there’s a reason why I’m not an entrepreneur.
Over the last few years, we have made several trips to different Decathlon outlets (mostly in Pune, also outside). It’s mind-blowing how they have transformed the shopping experience for sports/athleisure items.
But this post is not about Decathlon’s path-breaking retail model.
This is about a fascinating storytelling practice that they use (one that they perhaps introduced?) - of sharing the stories of their employees.
If you’ve been to a Decathlon store you would have realized that they have a different approach when it comes to hiring employees. They don’t hire guys just looking for a job - they hire folks who are actually passionate about their sport/physical activity.
You will find national-level cyclists, summiteers and award-winning body-builders - among other experts - helping you buy. And so, when you ask a question about that fleece jacket, the response would be based on that person’s experience, not some textbook theory.
Now, that hiring philosophy clearly makes Decathlon stand out from the crowd. But what’s the use of having such a unique practice, if you are not going to be telling it…
And so, in every Decathlon store, you will find large posters hung on the wall - telling the stories of their individual employees.
Each ‘My Sports Story’ poster is dedicated to one employee. It is usually written by them using their own language to describe what makes them passionate about the sport and is accompanied by a picture of them in the midst of the activity.
This powerful initiative achieves many objectives:
- Purpose: It starts with the ‘Why’ - why is this employee helping you buy at this store? “People don’t buy what you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it”, said Simon Sinek, famously from the TED stage. Decathlon is channelling its own love for sports through these passionate customer-facing employees.
- Credibility: It assures you of the employee’s expertise, in case of any questions you may have (and also makes you more likely to buy).
- Recognition: Most importantly, it makes the employee feel valued and good about himself/herself!
And to top it all, it basically costs next to nothing.
This Christmas, it’s time to make a resolution. We’ve done enough celebrating Santa.
It’s time to celebrate the elves.