ReportageSpurred on by the health crisis and store closures, athletes are getting more equipment on the Web. Competition between Decathlon, Nike and specialist sites is getting tougher.
The French peaks are snow-capped. The ski season is on. Snowleader is playing big. The French specialist in the online sale of mountain sports articles opened a warehouse in Versoud this fall, near Grenoble, in Isère. Housed in a former Caterpillar factory, closed for several years, its 7,000 m² houses surf racks, hiking boots and ski helmets, from which handlers pick the items to be shipped.
Next to it, runs an automated storage system, the AutoStore. Its footprint is 600 m². But its capacity is equivalent to that of 5,000 m² of racks. Because it is 40 meters long, it is made up of 20,000 boxes stacked on top of each other, 8 meters high, like a construction game. Each contains small items (water bottles, mittens, hats, T-shirts, etc.) offered for sale by Snowleader.
Above, a set of rails supports 16 robots equipped with arms. In seven seconds, their ballet allows you to move the boxes and free the one containing the item sold. Objective: to ship, the same day, any order placed before 6 p.m., instead of 2 p.m. currently. Snowleader has invested 25 million euros for this new warehouse, including 10 million to acquire this Norwegian technology already installed in a Decathlon store in Martinique, and at LDLC, a site for the sale of electronic products.
The amount of this investment speaks volumes about Snowleader’s ambitions. Founded, in 2008, by Thomas Rouault, a former Nike in France, the distributor had, in its beginnings, for paragon Au vieux campeur, the sign whose, since 1941, mountain dwellers, hikers and other backpackers leaf through the catalog for equip yourself.
Online, Snowleader reproduces this exhaustive positioning and is inspired by its art of consulting. The site sells 425 brands, assigns 40 people to advice online, by phone, six days a week, and suggests snowshoe outings, hikes and waxing sessions to its customers, thanks to a magazine with 700,000 copies. The formula works.
The company hopes to achieve a turnover of 100 million euros in 2025, against 45 million euros in 2021. In 2020, it raised 10 million euros to ensure its development with 123 Investment Managers, BNP Paribas and Sofimac Régions; the third, after those of 2008 and 2012 and a cumulative amount of 3.1 million euros. The company intends to expand its network of stores, particularly in Paris, after having opened in Annecy, Chamonix (Haute-Savoie) and Lyon. But it is especially in online sales that Mr. Rouault wants to extend its presence in Europe, while it is already accessible in Switzerland, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany.
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