Chullanka, a French outdoor retailer previously owned by Decathlon, has started updating its retail concept to focus more strongly on brands and retail animation at its four large-scale outdoor stores, after a change of shareholding and leadership last year.

Chullanka's management was taken over last year by Thierry Crampes. He previously spent more than two decades at Galeries Lafayette, a French department store group, and another three as commercial director at Rue du Commerce, an online retailer.

Bruno Laurent, Chullanka's former general manager, left the company last July. He divested his shares in Chullanka and is currently studying other projects. Laurent had been at the helm of the profitable French outdoor chain since it was launched by the Decathlon group in 2007, opening its four stores in Antibes, Metz, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

The change came about two years after two French investment companies supported a management buyout of Chullanka, as Decathlon opted to focus on its Decathlon retail brand. The shareholders are the Compagnie d'Anjou and Notus Technologies, an industrial and commercial group created by Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, a French entrepreneur. Under this buy-out, company managers reportedly owned about 30 percent of Chullanka's shares.

The four stores of 1,500 to more than 2,000 square meters generated sales of over €20 million for the full year until the end of September 2017, which was an increase of about 20 percent. While the winter in that fiscal year was weak, Chullanka performed outstandingly for the remainder of the period and it benefited from the launch of its online store in 2016.

The strategic changes implemented by Crampes are meant to stick with Chullanka's technical outdoor retail concept while adding more brand-driven displays and making the retail space more eventful. Chullanka has started deploying event zones at the entrance of each of the stores. The assortment in the apparel area has been split by brand instead of function, and it has started creating areas for trendy activities such as women's running and yoga.

At the same time, the retailer has formed a small innovation group, which is to track outstanding new products early. Among the technical novelties spotted by the team are Wezr, a connected portable weather station, and Lyne Fit, a sports tee-shirt with reinforced tensors that stimulate the wearer's back, to keep his or her spine aligned during physical exercise.

Another item on the strategic agenda is investment in click-and-collect functions. Crampes aims to raise the share of Chullanka's online sales to about 10 percent of its turnover in the next few years. The retailer said its performance was encouraging so far, with a strong conversion rate.

The current fiscal year has got off with a strong start, owing to the outstanding weather conditions in the winter. Chullanka's performance was weaker during the close-out season in January, which appears to be a broader trend due to earlier discounts on Black Friday and year-round promotions. Sales firmed up again in the second half of February and in March.

After the implementation of the store and assortment changes this year, Chullanka wants to expand again, with one or two store openings per year. Crampes said that the most judicious format is that of the latest outlet, opened in Bordeaux in 2016 on a surface of about 1,500 square meters.