Unpaired Project – Save A Shoe, Save The Planet



Reading time: 4 minutes


By Ceci Yip

“Dream big, start small” – this perfectly describes how Tiziana PRONO has initiated the Unpaired Project in Decathlon Italy. The idea arose when she discovered a remarkable number of single shoes in the store. She then proposed a solution and turned it into a local project. After one and a half years, the project has been expanded to the international level and it is aimed to be developed as a global Decathlon process.

The problem of the unpaired shoes

Unpaired shoes are often found in the retail stores because customers purchase different sizes of shoes due to non-identical feet sizes. Moreover, when they use the self check-out counters, Decathlonians are unable to check if the shoes are sold in pairs of the same size. As a result, the single shoes will be made defective, which causes undesired loss of stock and profit. 

The solution

In order to avoid the waste and bring the shoes back on the shelf, Tiziana proposed a solution – gather all the single shoes and pair them up again in collaboration with the others. She first lined up all seven stores in Rome to raise the awareness of Decathlonians during the product facing and payment handling at the checkout counters. Their role was to identify the mismatched shoes, try to pair them up in the store or send them to the warehouse for re-pairing and quality control. This collaboration allows a higher chance for the shoes to be matched again and returned to the market. Since the project involves various stores and warehouses, the team developed a standard operating procedure to manage the unpaired products with a formalised and coordinated process.

From an idea to a global project

The project demonstrates how a good idea can be applied and expanded from one store to the global level. It is a bottom-up project started in December 2019 in Tiziana’s store and the other stores in Rome. Afterwards, the team invited the warehouse in Turin to join the project by becoming a hub to assemble and re-match the unpaired shoes. Today, almost 150 stores and 4 warehouses in Italy are engaged in the project and 50,000 € of stock has been saved in 2020. Other Decathlon countries such as Slovenia, Croatia and Romania also joined in. 

The change

The core value of the project is sustainability, and the team proved that sustainability projects can also bring economic value. Tiziana has built a huge network with people sharing the same vision and values. The project inspires teammates of the collective power to drive changes and motivates them to participate in other projects. In the long term, the team hopes to share this project with more Decathlon countries and turn it into a global warehouse process.

Aligned with the Decathlon Vision

The Unpaired Project aligns with the following Vision targets:

  • Regenerative & Local Living – the project was initiated by a local store to reduce the environmental impact through the reduction of defective products like unpaired shoes. 
  • Transport – the unpaired shoes are transported to the warehouse using the same vehicles after the store delivery, which achieves zero impact and zero cost.
  • Inclusive – 297 unpaired shoes were donated to all the players participating in the Amputee Football Championship in Fano, North East Italy.

“It’s really exciting to see the new but unpaired shoes to be finally in use, people were intrigued and happy. Zero waste and sport inclusion are our values!”

– Tiziana PRONO

Project initiator
Tiziana PRONO

Tiziana PRONO

Project Manager at Decathlon Italy