French sports retail giant, Decathlon, recently opened their new store beside IKEA in Ballymun and it's fair to say it's a whole new shopping experience for those with a love of sport or the great outdoors.
The 4,000m² store not only stocks equipment and clothing for pretty much every activity you can think of, it also allows customers to try stuff out for themselves while exploring the aisles. Consider it a sports shopping adventure centre with an outdoor space that includes a basketball court, football astro turf area, a bike track and playground that are not just for testing out products but will also be available to the local community to book and use for free.
"Our motto here is '70 different sports under one roof,' said store leader, Kieran O'Shea, when speaking to Balls.ie. "You enter the store and go through a journey to discover each and every sport along the way. Some sports you may not have even heard of before but, for sure, we have it here."
"The idea for us here is that you get to see the sport, you get to test and try before you buy."
You can watch how we got on when we visited the store below:
Speaking about the journey throught the store, Kieran explained: "We start with camping where you get to test putting up and down a tent. We have a table tennis table which you can play first to see whether you want an indoor one or an outdoor one. We have our punching bags for boxing to help understand which kind of punching bag you want. We have a cycling track for you to test the bikes before you buy.
"We also have a studio to play badminton or multi-ball screen activities. We have a football pitch, as basketball court and numerous other things inside the store for you to be able to get used to the product and make sure it is the right product for you before you buy it. It's a real interactive store."
Founded in 1976 by Michel Leclercq, it has grown to become the largest sports goods retailer in the world. The company researches and develops almost all its own products as part of their mission to make sport accessible to as many people as possible. The range of clothing and equipment covers team and individual sports, such as soccer, rugby, cycling and water sports, as well exercise equipment and outdoor activities like camping and fishing.
Decathlon has stores in almost 70 different countries, with another Irish store in Belfast and plans to expand further around the country. The store is a BREEAM certifie sustainable build with solar panels providing 20% of the total energy consumption.
"When we designed this building we wanted to make something different for customers. Our traditional Decathlon store is quite similar but with this one specifically, because it's a property site and because we're here for life, we wanted to do many things differently." said Kieran.
The original April opening date had to be pushed back because of Covid-19 and while they've now finally been able to open, there are extra safety precautions in place to put customer minds at ease:
"From day one we wanted to offer the customer an amazing experience but a safe experience as well."
"We've followed the government guidelines that were provided to us by HSE, in terms of the amount of people inside the store and we've kept this strict from day one, allowing only 150 people inside the store at once. We have numerous hand sanitisers around store and we make sure the customer flow is constant throughout the day."
While their online store had already been popular in Ireland, Decathlon are amazed at how popular their Ballymun hub has proved to be since they opened on 13 June. "We did a survey of 1,000 people in the first week of opening and 98% of them said they'd recommend this store to their friends or family."
Here for the long haul, Decathlon hope to build long term relationships with the local community and clubs in Ballymun, while providing them with a family orientated outlet that is a whole lot of fun to visit.