French retailer Decathlon S.A. is the largest sporting goods producer in the world with over 1,500 stores in 60 countries. Bangladesh is one of the strategic manufacturing country for Decathlon. 10 years back, the French brand started its sourcing journey here in Bangladesh. Now the brand has an office each in Dhaka and Chattogram.
Recently in a conversation with Textile Today Deepak DSOUZA, Country Manager, Decathlon Bangladesh has shared his insights and valuable forecasts on synthetic wear and value-added sports items trends and prospects of Bangladesh in the product ranges.
Textile Today: In today’s new normal scenario with less consumption, sales decline and market fluctuation – what is Decathlon’s policy regarding this?
Deepak DSOUZA: The outbreak of COVID-19 has been unprecedented and the global retail sector is facing multifaceted challenges. Physical stores were closed for many weeks. It has been quite dynamic and intense until the stores reopened and things starting to get back to normal slowly.
For Decathlon the lockdown period had put a strain with falling demand and consumption. In Bangladesh, production was suspended for a few weeks. The biggest challenge here for Decathlon was finding a solution on the stocks, consuming all the unsold products and cut materials, etc.
With the Physical Stores opening in May, we have been able to Bounce Back.
The good news is we have not canceled a single order from the Bangladeshi suppliers. After the reopening, we have consumed the orders we had placed.
Textile Today: Did Decathlon reduce its order flow during the pandemic? What is the plan regarding Bangladesh?
Deepak DSOUZA: As I said earlier, the needs were uncertain. At the same time, we have been able to do some quick developments based on needs like fabric masks, outdoor tents, shoes and textiles.
For example, within 22 days Decathlon Bangladesh –with the France team – developed a value-added reusable and washable category 1 fabric mask – it filters more than 90% of three-micron particles, and resists at least 20 washes, attached with an elastic band, quick-dry, and decent air penetrability for easy breathing – and getting all the necessary permission and certification within this time and shipped more than 10 million pieces to France. Most importantly we kept our apparel suppliers’ units engaged closely and to find solutions to restart Production.
In Bangladesh, Decathlon’s product manufacturing is quite diversified. We produce synthetic shoes. tents, sleeping bags, caps, sweaters, bicycle components are also produced here. We are associated with a number of suppliers and partners.
Textile Today: During COVID-19 pandemic, sportswear/activewear appears as the resilient category to the consumers. How do you see the trend, and how can Bangladesh be a gainer from this?
Deepak DSOUZA: One of the significant development during this COVID-19 pandemic is consumers are inclining more towards athletic wear. People are becoming health conscious and the need for right Products for the customers (e.g. Bicycles, yoga mats, running gears and other sports/fitness associated articles)
This signifies that people are getting more active and health–conscious globally.
When we talk about the textile fabric of sportswear, it is synthetic fabrics and other technical fabrics with special finishes. Where Bangladesh has certain Limitations in terms of producing synthetic fabric – As Bangladesh’s readymade garment (RMG) industry is mostly cotton based – only 6-7% of global synthetic fabric is produced in Bangladesh. The country has a lot of potentialities and could overcome and gain an extra edge with its competitor countries like China and Vietnam.
Bangladesh is never far behind, some leading apparel makers here are producing synthetic fabric and products. As there is immense potentiality in manmade fabric like synthetic woven, polyamide, warp-knitted, nylon, spandex, etc.
As of now, the most manmade fabric needs to be imported from China – like the mid and long term strategy the country needs to build the complete value chain to cater to this fastest-growing sportswear sector.
Bangladesh has the opportunity to develop on Lead time and Quick Replenishment to have an upper edge on the complete value chain. Orders take a long time to deliver. This is why building a synthetic value chain is of utmost importance.
Another vital aspect for Bangladeshi RMG makers is they need to keep a close watch in the market trend. In this fast-changing world, there is no way to live in a traditional method. It needs to keep the research, Innovation, Digital Transformation, Manufacturing-Operational Excellence and Sustainable Ecosystem.
Keep in mind that products are market-driven. We – the whole value chain – all need to be agile and flexible to face the toughest challenges, and Bangladesh is excellent in Capacity/ Flexibility. Bangladesh has an exceptional capacity and State of the Art Manufacturing Green Factories.
Textile Today: Many are encouraging to use of digital platforms as a new marketing strategy. How do you see this online sales strategy during COVID-19?
Deepak DSOUZA: The online market is growing. More consumers are getting habituated by sitting home and ordering online.
The online market is also giving the flexibility to consumers of choosing a product, return, etc. customers are getting a better user experience.
In Bangladesh, an online presence is growing but people still want to feel/touch a product before buying. This is where we need to provide both the physical and digital experience for the consumers. As a brand, we are offering both the channel to our customers to give them a unique experience.
Textile Today: In Bangladesh Decathlon store, products are more expensive compared to other countries. What is your opinion regarding this?
Deepak DSOUZA: The purpose of Decathlon is to ‘making sports accessible to many.’ While Being Useful to people and planet. Globally our Business model is the same and then we adapt to the country based on user feedback and demand.
Globally the import taxes are different. However, for a textile product, we have to pay 85% import tax. For shoes, a 135% tax is included. Locally made products need to be shipped to another country and then it is re-imported again in the country.
We are working with our suppliers and local govt. authorities to find the best solution respecting the local regulations. We also would like to promote more Local to Local flow.