Action has been established in Luxembourg since 2015 and now has nine outlets, like this one in Schengen. Photos: Nader Ghavami/Maison Moderne 

From decorative items and cleaning products to toys and other outdoor items: the promise of Action remains the same, to offer low prices through a selection as varied and changeable as possible.

“Wherever you go at Action, the stores are the same and the selection is 95% similar. Our format of 6,000 articles, including 150 new items per week, is something that knows no borders," according to Judia Elkadi, general manager of the brand for Belgium and Luxembourg.

This former department manager began with a company store in 2004 before rising through the ranks and becoming general manager Belux in April 2018.

In Luxembourg, the brand currently has nine points of sale located in Belval, Bettembourg, Schengen, Sandweiler, Beggen, Echternach and Marnach. Weiswampach will complete the set on 22 July. "We want to offer an Action that is close to everyone, wherever they are in Luxembourg," Elkadi explains, although she has not set a gauge for the store base. This has doubled over the past two years with a peri-urban presence targeting population areas of at least 30,000 people. "We are looking for new locations, but the process of opening new stores is a little longer in Luxembourg," Elkadi adds.

From the Netherlands to Spain

“We are the fastest-growing discounter in Europe,” she says. It all started in 1993 in Enkhuizen, in the north of the Netherlands. The first Action store opened, quickly followed by a hundred more. In 2005, international expansion began, first in Belgium, then Germany (2009), France (2012), Austria and Luxembourg (2015), Poland (2017), the Czech Republic (2020), and finally Italy (2021). As of next year, Spain will be added to the list, which should then exceed 2,000 outlets, compared to 1,800 currently.

Judia Elkadi, Action general manager for Belgium and Luxembourg 

Action claims an average price of €1.72 per product “because we buy very large volumes”. In its early days, the brand was known to buy end-of-series products at a good price. It now enjoys critical mass and the support of its new owner, UK investment firm 3i, to place supplier-specific orders. On its shelves, you can find branded products, such as Coca-Cola bottles and Calgonit dishwasher tablets, as well as items from its 73 own brands. Since 2014, Action has been collaborating with the logistics company Li & Fung, based in Hong Kong.

Action's business model based on impulse buying--or, rather, the “surprise effect”, as management puts it--suffered somewhat from the health crisis last year: for an equivalent number of stores, its turnover fell by 1.4% in 2020. But published up 8.9% to €5.57bn, it benefited from the opening of 164 new points of sale in Europe.

In Luxembourg, no store was forced to close its doors during confinement, unlike France and Belgium, for example, where, as soon as they reopened in the summer of 2020, large queues were observed outside. During the second lockdown, the brand deployed a click & collect system in countries affected by a new forced closure, a "one shot" to which "consumers were very receptive".

Online, a low-cost approach

So when will the webshop be available? “Our priority is the store network. I won't say that we will never open an online portal, but for us, now is not the time." Action can nevertheless count on communities of active fans on social networks. From Instagram to Youtube, dozens of them share their findings every week, essentially free advertisement for the low-cost brand. In a 2020 media report, it pointed out that it has reached 4.1m internet users via Instagram (+50%) and Facebook (+21%). This figure is far from trivial when you consider that Action stores welcome 9m customers every week.

In another, it emphasises the sustainability of its offer: FSC and PEFC wood, UTZ chocolate or even Oeko-Tex for textiles. "Today, the BCI label represents 76% of our offer for cotton items, we have the ambition to increase it to 100% by 2025," Elkadi explains.

The brand, which bets on being discount and sustainable, claims not to be in competition with one brand in particular, but dozens, given its offer spreads across many segments. In the grand duchy, the market is also occupied by Belgium's Trafic and its four stores, "a more local brand, while we are active in nine countries," Elkadi adds.

Owned by the British investment company 3i since 2011, Action is included in its private equity portfolio alongside other brands also present in Luxembourg, such as Basic-Fit and BoConcept.

This article was originally published in French on Paperjam and has been translated and edited for Delano.