"As an Action supplier, you’re constantly looking to innovate"

From supplying one store in the Netherlands to hundreds of stores across Europe, some suppliers have literally grown with Action over the last thirty years. And in order to maintain such rapid growth, suppliers need to continue to innovate. As Dayes’ managing directors Rogier van der Vat and Fabio Magnani tell us, that’s really hard to do.

Back in 1998, their company started out supplying microfibre cloths, which are everywhere you look nowadays. Since then, Dayes has risen to an elite level, delivering more than 500 products to Action stores across Europe on a daily basis. “To stay at this level, you need to constantly innovate.”

How have you grown with Action?
Rogier: “Growing at the same pace sounds easy, but as a supplier it means you have to continue to develop at the same speed – and that speed is really high. You can’t lag behind. It simply doesn’t work like that.”

Fabio: “I agree, and apart from innovating (new) products, it’s often said – especially by banks – that you can’t be too reliant on one customer. And while that’s true, of course, things have always gone well between us and Action.”

Is that because of the collaboration? Or to put it another way, the relationship?
Fabio: “As suppliers, we really grow in step with Action. In addition to that being pretty unique, that means there is a mutual responsibility, too. We both know who we are, and what we need from each other. The relationship is strong, but that doesn’t mean orders are simply gifted to us. Every time negotiations take place, they’re hard-fought, and that hasn’t changed in thirty years!”

Is that business nous typical of Action?
Rogier: “I would say so, yes. Rob [Wagemaker, one of Action’s co-founders] sold everything at wholesale markets when they started out. We were there, too, as we were only supplying market traders back in the day. Action was our first retail customer, and I remember it like it was yesterday. We supplied ironing board covers that we sourced from Italy, from a van in Zwaagdijk.  And Rob was waiting for them, standing there with his sleeves rolled up.” Fabio: “Yeah, and if he didn’t like something, you’d know straight away.”

Does that also explain the success, do you think?
Rogier: “Yes. But Action is very close to their customers, and understands them, too, without being arrogant. That allows them to change direction in the blink of an eye.”

Fabio: “Another difference between now and back then is that Action takes more risk. They’re not trendsetters by any means, but they have a good feeling for what they need in-store. If one of the buyers sees something interesting on TikTok in the US, they can get it on the shelves really quickly.”

I get the impression it’s fun to look at what works and what doesn’t. Are there any products that have been a total flop?
Rogier: “Yes, the ‘pool scrubber sliders’! They were like a slider with suction cups on the bottom that you could use to clean your feet. They didn’t exactly fly off the shelves.”

Are you making the same efforts in the area of sustainability as Action, too?
Rogier: “Definitely. We’re constantly seeking innovations in this area. A great example is the coffee face scrub, which is made from used ground coffee beans. The tube we sell the scrub in is made of sugarcane. And we’re going to supply a menstrual cup, too.”

Fabio: “These products match consumer demand for offering products you can use several times over. The market is changing, so there are microfibre cloths that can be used to remove make-up, and washable cotton wool pads. These types of products will be a key differentiating factor in the years to come – and alongside Action, we’re faster than other competitors.”