| On 2 years ago

Decathlon, The Centrepoint — Can this new outfit rival its Kallang sibling? We find out.

I wait in eager anticipation for the green man at the ultra-modern, neon-lit traffic junction outside 313@Somerset—my insides bursting in sporadic waves of excitement. Across the road, the freshly-opened, two-storey Foot Locker beckons. My inner sneaker freak is going crazy, but I reeled myself in because today, my mind is fixed on Orchard Road’s latest addition—Decathlon at The Centrepoint.

Ever since the French sport-and-outdoor megastore hit our shores in 2013, people across the country have been going wild for their retail stores—including myself. Shopping there is truly an experience like no other, and provides for the perfect, late-night hang out option on an uneventful weekday.

Play a mini table tennis competition with your friends, test ride a bicycle, balance on a slackline, or sit in a fully-inflated canoe in a mini-pool—you can literally do and try anything in these stores that your adventurous heart desires.

The birth of a new store

Every time I visit Decathlon, a good time is almost guaranteed, even if I don’t intend to buy anything. Most of the time though, I usually leave with something in the shopping cart because of their unbelievably low price points. For these reasons, I can’t wait to see what this new outlet has to offer.

As I make my way across the road, the ominous, blue sign appears in my peripheral. It is the opening weekend and the foot traffic is heavy. I dissolve into the throngs of people—finding myself in the store after the usual Safe Entry procedures.

Affordable sports equipment—packed in tight spaces

The store is swarming with shoppers, and like their flagship outlet in Kallang, the first category of products to welcome visitors are the bicycles. My eyes scan past the different brands as I deftly dodge a child struggling to balance on a tiny mountain bike. A small track lies beside the display of bicycles—today, it is teeming with eager kids.

I survey the next few rows of products and find that they are all mostly dedicated to outdoor cycling, outdoor activewear and sports attire. Unsurprisingly, the price points are almost too good to be true.

My eyes browse in fervour at an entire section dedicated to running shoes, stopping to fawn at a colourful pair meant for beginners going at just S$15. The flooring in this section is suitably made of synthetic rubber—perfect for the track and field enthusiast itching to try out Decathlon’s selection of running spikes.

An interesting electronic device perches at the entrance of this section—the 3D Foot Scanner. On this, customers can actually get an electronic scanning of their foot profile to see which type of running shoes will fit them the best.

My journey continues through the extensive labyrinth of equipment, as I walk past a family inspecting a snorkelling kit. To my amazement, an adult snorkelling kit only costs S$20—I seriously consider buying it, knowing full well that I’ll probably never need to use it very often.

I take an opportunity to reflect, realising that Decathlon has this ever-so-compelling way of encouraging its shoppers to try new outdoor activities in making equipment like these super affordable and accessible to the layman.

The second floor finds itself in my path by way of an escalator. As soon as I arrive, an assortment of small camping tents greet me. There are numerous types on display, which unfortunately makes the already cramped floor space feel even tighter while I slither my way through the dynamic clusters of bodies.

Finding myself in a bit of space, I quickly scurry over to the hiking bags section. Most of Decathlon’s hiking bags are from French mountain sports brand Quechua. Having camped overseas with one myself, I can ascertain that these are of good quality. A row of different models hang on a small try-it-yourself section, making it possible for shoppers to get an up-close feel before making their purchase.

Over the din of the many folks around me, I hear the grazing of polyurethane wheels on concrete. Children laugh and yell while testing out some skateboards and skate scooters in a miniature, rectangular test area. A full, complete adult-sized skateboard costs only S$80, making it the perfect entry-level item for any beginner.

The racket from the children crossfades into the sound of basketballs smashing into hoops, as I make my way towards the sport equipment section. Rows and rows of balls—basketballs, tennis balls, footballs and rugby balls can be found here as well as equipment like goal posts, basketball hoops and training equipment.

A rather peculiar half-sized ping-pong table sits in a corner, beside the changing rooms.

Feeling a little disappointed that there are no test areas for any other sport but basketball and table tennis, I continue my journey towards the other end of the store.

The main walkway is long and straight, and as I tiptoe from one end, I can truly see the immense scale of people present in the store at this moment over the countless, bobbing heads. The social distancing alarm bells trigger in my head, but I push on, determined to find something new and novel.

I pass by a faux rock-climbing wall, which looks incredibly exciting to try but to my dismay, a sign which reads “Test Zone Unavailable” stands in front of it. A bunch of exercise rubber bands appear before me next, but like many of the other test zones, it too has an “Unavailable” sign in front of it, warding off curious customers.

Exasperated and feeling increasingly claustrophobic, I approach a staff member to ask if there is a third floor, to which I discover that the store ends at the second floor. I leave the store feeling slightly disappointed, but relieved to finally be free from the human gridlock.

Final Thoughts

Plus points for its centralised location, but the experience in Decathlon Orchard pales in comparison to its much bigger Kallang counterpart. The test zones in Kallang are simply more diverse and conducive for interaction as they are much larger in space. The crowds are also much thinner—perhaps due to the fact that Decathlon Kallang is open 24-hours.

Regardless, Decathlon Orchard delivers all that Decathlon is known for—extensive varieties of good-quality equipment, at a very affordable price. Decathlon is perfect for the everyday athlete or if you’re simply looking for cheap and comfortable sports attire.

My final verdict—if you’re only looking to make a purchase, then Decathlon Orchard, or any other Decathlon for that matter, works for you. If you want a fuller hands-on experience sans the packed crowd and tight spaces, however, Decathlon Kallang will be a much better choice.

Whatever and wherever your poison, you can be assured of Decathlon’s commitment to eye-poppingly affordable prices for goods of quality. And in a climate like now where every dollar matters, a little penny-pinching never hurts.

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