Here Editor Will Lowry speaks to Jan-Willem van der Wijngaart, general sales manager at Don Quichotte B.V, about the hardened steel nails market and the challenges of being a Dutch manufacturer.
How has 2018 progressed so far and how did it differ from your perceptions at the beginning of the year?
“2018 has started very well and the last couple of months have also been promising. In fact, as a business we have performed positively over the last five years. We have been able to continuously increase our turnover with our installation products – mainly fixings for electrical installation work – and at the same time strengthen our position in the hardware/construction sector.
Although our product range for electrical installation has grown rapidly, the construction products still remain very important to us. Hardened steel nails are our history and this range will continue to play a key role in the future. Like many companies one of our main challenges is to keep our necessary margins, which can be difficult with the continuously increasing costs from the purchasing side.”
What are the main advantages for customers using Don Quichotte products and how do you ensure you are supplying the products your customers need?
“Since we are a manufacturer we are able to control the whole process ourselves, which means we can continuously work on optimising the different stages to make them more efficient.
Our products are all designed, developed and manufactured according to the following principle: High-quality products, with competitive prices, that are easy to use – resulting in time and cost savings during installation.
Having a good offer includes so much more than just price. We want to offer products that have great features and include advantages. Besides that, the packaging, labelling and road to the customer is important, as is the easy way of ordering and handling questions.
To ensure we are supplying the products customers’ need we have a dynamic and experienced team of salespeople regularly visiting our customers around the world. Since we are supplying customers in more than 70 countries this is an intensive and costly part of our sales strategy. However, because of that we have strong and long-term relations with our customers that also ensures we are developing and producing the products they need. We are also participating and visiting exhibitions seeing customers and keeping informed regarding market trends and requirements. Our sales team is being supported by product managers who are also doing market research and giving input to developing our product range.”
What does Don Quichotte see as the key developments in the nail sector in the next decade?
“This is a very difficult question… I have already worked for Don Quichotte for more than 15 years and even when I first started there were a lot of people who were telling me that the ‘hardened steel nail market is going to decrease rapidly’. However, we are still here. In fact, we have been able to keep volumes up and extend our product ranges and our customer base.
It must be said a number of European manufacturers have closed and therefore capacities have reduced. On the other hand, there are new suppliers from eastern Europe and of course the Far East, so it is difficult to judge the overall situation. I would like to stress that we focus on producing high-quality nails for professional markets and applications. Our customers are leading importers/wholesalers and OEM/industry customers that have strong positions in their own countries. We wish to support our customers as much as possible offering a product that is suitable to them and perfectly fits their strategy/philosophy.”
What goals has Don Quichotte set for the next 5 – 10 years? What opportunities and challenges lie ahead?
“We aim to further increase our product range for several sectors – offering our customers a bigger choice, as well as products that offer advantages to their customers (the end users). Of course, we plan to further increase our turnover and invest more in the business to remain a reliable partner to our customers and to be an attractive company to do business with. In all sectors digitalisation is a big and inevitable issue and naturally we are also working on this. For instance, we have recently invested in a new automatic Weighpack packing line that has helped increase the efficiency of our packing department. We believe that further automatisation and robotisation will become an essential part of our work.
As for opportunities and challenges, currently in large parts of the world the economy is going well, which is positive for construction and therefore our industry. At the same time there are various threats around the world and nobody knows if these are going to have a negative influence on the world economy, like for example the situation in Russia, Turkey, Iran, the Middle East or the USA boycott.
Additionally, we are facing high raw material costs, with further increases being announced constantly. Being a manufacturer of high-quality products means we are also using high-quality raw materials. In this respect we must ensure a constant and stable availability.
It is also getting harder and harder to find the right people for the work we offer. It seems that less people are interested to work for example in production, so we have to train people and make sure we are an attractive employer.”
Which will be the pivotal global markets for Don Quichotte and why?
“The most significant markets for us are in western Europe and some overseas countries. Since we are supplying products for several sectors like construction, electrical installation or sanitary installation, it basically depends on the product/market combination. The German market is vital for our range of electrical products whereas plumbing products sell very well in our home market – the Netherlands. Hardened steel nails/masonry nails are still popular and are being used around the world.”
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 10 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.
Will manages the content strategy across all platforms and is the guardian for the high editorial standards that the Magazine is renowned.