How do I love Decathlon? Let me count the ways

‘You have no idea how much of their stuff you need until you walk through the door’

Decathlon: ‘All the family’s sporting and outdoor interests can be catered for in one spot’

Decathlon: ‘All the family’s sporting and outdoor interests can be catered for in one spot’

 

When our plane touched down in Perpignan last summer, the first stop on the way to our campsite was Decathlon. Top-level intelligence prior to travel had informed us you were no-one on a French beach last year unless you were sporting a full-face snorkel. With Decathlon doing them for €30 it seemed a no-brainer. An entire supermarket aisle at Decathlon sported the snorkels and helpful staff were on hand to explain how best to fit them and how they worked. They were hands down the highlight buy of the holiday.

But that was only part of the joy of the Decathlon experience. You have no idea how much of their stuff you need until you walk through the door and discover a) how much cheaper it is than every other sports shop you have ever been in, b) what a great selection of gear they have and c) it’s a shop children don’t mind spending time in. (Less so partners who’d prefer to be at the beach/anywhere else.)

It is a hybrid of all the lifestyle loveliness of IKEA with the ‘pile ’em high’ warehouse feel of Smyths. Entire sections of the store are given over to camping, running, cycling, gym equipment, hiking/mountaineering, fishing, watersports, archery, the list goes on, so kids are amused for hours running in and out of assembled tents, whooshing around on scooters and jumping up and down on mini trampolines.

Holly and Milo Garry sporting their Decathlon snorkels, swimwear and microfibre towel in France
Holly and Milo Garry sporting their Decathlon snorkels, swimwear and microfibre towel in France

One-stop shop

It is a one-stop shop for every sporting need. Instead of going to one place to buy under armour, another place for trainers and another for fitness gear, all the family’s sporting and outdoor interests can be catered for in one spot.

Our 40 minute detour to Decathlon also garnered a couple of UV sun protection tops (about €4 each), aqua shoes (about €6 each), a microfibre quick dry towel (€12), wraparound sunglasses for the kids (about €9 each), base layer tops and shorts for cold weather (about €8 each), a swimsuit (€20) and gym leggings (€15). Try and match that haul in any Irish-based retail store – buying branded base layers alone would nearly cost the equivalent.

Do you end up buying more than you need? Absolutely. But unlike other cheap-as-chips multiples the quality is good. I can’t say there’s anything that has had to be discarded on the basis of shoddiness or poor durability. The retailer develops and sells its own brands, with each sport given its own brand name. More familiar brands include Tribord for water sports and Kipsta for team sports.

Quality vs price

Purists will argue of course that this isn’t good for speciality sports and it’s better to invest in quality. Cash-strapped parents might counter that they would prefer to make a small initial outlay on gear for rapidly growing children who may or may not fully embrace costly pursuits such as horse riding (apparently the equestrian range is very popular with holidaying Irish families) or gymnastics/dancing where there are only a few providers of specialist gear. It’s also nice for kids to have a change, but not so nice to have to shell out twice.

2 Seconds two-man tent (€55 from Decathlon)

Particular Decathlon highlights include their ‘2 Seconds’ two-man tents (€55), so called because they take that long to assemble and will definitely last three nights at a mudfest in Kildare. Backpacks for €3 will easily take boots, gear and a bottle. Also available are waterproof jackets that fold away into a pouch belt/bum bag for about €5.

And Decathlon said it plans to address all our GAA needs too. What’s not to like?

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