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Seven years ago, when the French sports goods retailer Decathlon came to India – setting up its sprawling first outlet on Sarjapur Road in Bangalore – it seemed like a novel concept, but perhaps too niche for aam janta. Today, Decathlon has single-handedly turned sports into something more than a childhood pursuit or an exclusive terrain of professional athletes.

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From Ludhiana to Kochi, the brand is on an expansion spree. And why not? It is far more affordable than Nike or Adidas, offers more variety, and has become popular without bombarding us with celebrity ads on the telly. Interestingly, although it has a global presence with over 700 stores, only in India does it have such spacious outlets, each of which offers a playground on its premises.

But the other day at the Thane Decathlon, I watched a man walk away with three four-person tents, a kid dragging a kayak, and some very bored aunties lugging trolleys full of snow boots designed for sub-zero temperatures. I did wonder how much of those goodies are actually used, because a lot of it just seems to be fad-driven.

Just showing up at the massive stores is in fact a waste of its immense potential; with just a bit of mindful research one can make the most of what Decathlon has to offer. Here are some handy tips to get you started.

Sale Sale Sale

Decathlon does not advertise its discount periods in traditional media, yet a season-end sale here turns up real bargains. Richa Pandey, a Noida resident, does all her winter shopping at the onset of summer – “I usually go for their clearance sale in May and end up stocking on all the woollens I need for summer treks. The clothes are dirt cheap and can be used for the next winter also. In fact their second anniversary bash was fab, especially the midnight clearance sale.” Subscribe to their newsletter by mail or update yourself through their Facebook page and never miss a discount again.

Events

From a Sunday street carnival called Happy Streets to informative talks on how to prepare for a trek in Ladakh just before the season begins – Decathlon is big on events. But again, track them on social media for updates, that way you too can participate in cool contests like this one.

Expertise

The customer service associates at Decathlon are well-trained and well-compensated, so you can ask them smarter questions than just “could you recommend a cycle please?” Instead, try explaining your needs precisely and let an expert guide you. Praveen, a copywriter from Mumbai, is high on mountain biking. He says, “I was impressed by the Decathlon guy who recommended bikes as per the terrains I’d be travelling on most. In the end it was that advice that made me choose a walk-in shopping trip over ordering a bike online.”

Planning

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t go shopping to Decathlon at the last minute, the mind-boggling variety being one of them. But the most important reason is that even if your product isn’t at the store, the team can order it for you from another outlet in India at negligible cost. But it takes time!

Know your brands

Not every product at Decathlon is a solemn promise of value for money. It doesn’t harm to ask their customer service associate to make an honest quality suggestion (I found them all quite friendly), or even better – check the brand reviews online. Happy sporting!

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