The repair and reconditioning market is gaining increasing popularity in Switzerland. However, its potential remains untapped. Aurel Greiner, founder of Revendo, a company specializing in the refurbishment and resale of electronic equipment, explains the concept.
Vintage bicycles, refurbished furniture, or reconditioned smartphones: the second-hand market continues to attract more and more customers. However, Switzerland's "circularity rate" is slightly below the global average (6.9% compared to 7.2%), according to the new "Circularity Gap Report" published by Deloitte and Circle Economy. This means that 93% of the materials entering the Swiss economy come from virgin resources. Allowing existing products to remain in the system for a longer period, avoiding premature disposal or recycling, is, therefore, the battle cry of Aurel Greiner, who founded Revendo in 2013, specializing in purchasing and selling used electronic devices.
Can you tell us about the creation of Revendo?
Aurel Greiner: When we started, my associates and I didn't create a business plan. Although there were no available statistics at the time, we were aware that countless smartphones were lying unused and gathering dust in households. Initially, we focused on online sales, considering physical retail to be a thing of the past. Surprisingly, from the outset, we received inquiries from customers who wanted to visit our premises to test the equipment before making a purchase. Today, our physical stores contribute to 50% of our total revenue. Moreover, numerous customers visit our locations to bring in their devices for reselling.
How does the company look ten years after its inception?
Greiner: Today, we have expanded to thirteen locations across four countries, encompassing logistics, and employing 140 individuals. I could never have anticipated such tremendous success. More than financing or the concept itself, I believe that we launched ourselves at the right time with the right idea. During the first eight years, we experienced organic growth, reinvesting every earned profit. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that our founding team was young and had nothing to lose. In fact, my initial annual salary was just CHF 12,000.
What motivates individuals to choose Revendo for selling or buying smartphones over online platforms?
Greiner: There are two factors. Firstly, on peer-to-peer sales platforms, individuals often encounter absurd inquiries, lowball offers, or scam attempts, leading to frustration. Secondly, our best-selling items, such as smartphones and tablets, generally require professional refurbishment before they are ready for a second life. Furthermore, new models become increasingly expensive while offering marginal improvements compared to slightly older devices.
Have you observed a change in the perception of upcycling since your entry into this market?
Greiner: Undoubtedly. During the initial years, our offerings primarily appealed to customers due to economic reasons. However, today we have a diverse customer base, including individuals who can afford new products but consciously opt for refurbished second-hand items. Price, of course, remains a crucial aspect.
Could you elucidate the process behind the cycle of second-hand products you sell?
Greiner: Our process always begins with a complete data wipe. Subsequently, our technicians assess the viability of various components. For instance, a smartphone's battery should possess a capacity equivalent to 85% of a new battery. The screen quality is also systematically verified. In the case of computers, we evaluate whether additional memory or a new hard drive is required. All our products are sold with a warranty. To maintain a functioning business model, we must strike a balance between incoming inventory and sales. This necessitates forming partnerships, such as with the telecommunications operator Salt.
Do you perceive further growth potential? How does 2023 appear?
Greiner: Comparing the number of new products purchased with those we sell, there exists significant untapped potential. However, recent data indicates a decline in the sales of new computers and smartphones, primarily due to inflation. Consequently, this will eventually impact our stock of available products. Nonetheless, we anticipate a 20% growth in revenue for the current year.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Greiner: When you truly believe in your project, you can achieve remarkable outcomes. This is particularly true when you are young and have little to lose. Additionally, it is essential to emphasize that sustainability alone is not a selling point: it must offer tangible benefits to consumers. In this regard, I believe that the upcycling sector could benefit from greater support from the political sphere, similar to what is provided to recycling companies.