A keen eye for opportunities - Revendo

Upcycling - the business with used Computers and Smartphones

Revendo was founded in Basel in 2013 by Aurel Greiner and Laurens Mackay. A company that combines simple ideas with great technical know-how and an excellent business sense and that has achieved remarkable success within a breathtakingly short period of time.

The business idea was originally developed out of simple need – the future founders, who were students at the time, required computers for their studies but were unable to afford the newest models. Their only option was to purchase a second hand model and refurbish it by replacing certain components, making use of their extensive technical finesse and know-how. This sparked a demand from others around them and revenue quickly accelerated, so that Revendo originating in that open-plan office with two people, is now a successful enterprise with nine stores across the German part of Switzerland and with over 80 employees.

Talking to Aurel Greiner, Co-Founder and Member of the Board of Directors:

How high, do you think is the readiness of a Swiss consumer to use an older or used but refurbished technical device?

Actually, very high indeed. An electronic device in Switzerland holds an average life span of approximately 18 months, but of course such a device is far from being expired. Extensive use of a device can cause a weakness in the rechargeable battery unit, but that can quickly be replaced. The devices built today are very robust, many of them are water-resistant and dustproof. Generally, there are less moving parts, the keyboards are gone and buttons and switches are reduced to an absolute minimum.

Passing on a personal device raises the question of data security and data protection. How do you deal with these challenges?

Initially, we did view this topic as a major obstacle. But since the use of flash data storage, each private user is able to permanently and irretrievably delete personal data. Our customers can even receive a certificate from us, but it is seldom requested.

Manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung or Huawei do have very strong trade-in programs. How do these programs affect your business?

Unlike in Switzerland, there are a large number of countries where these programs are in regular use. They are however, essentially customer retention schemes and the upcycling and refurbishing thought i.e. the idea of re-using existing components or entire used devices and re-selling them in stores is not a priority. This idea must be carried to the customer by the supplier. A provider for instance, can offer a device in return for the signing of a subscription. But the modern customer wants to be more flexible and increasingly demands greater transparency. Apple of course is a competitor, but we also work in cooperation with Apple and we receive many clients directly from them - especially business clients.

If the average life span of an electronic device in Switzerland is 18 months, then there must be a large amount of e-waste lying around in Swiss households- what do you think would be the per capita monetary value of that e-waste?

It is important to point out that the e-waste in terms of weight has been steadily decreasing over the past few years. We no longer have tube televisions and more plastics are being used. Devices are therefore lighter. In Switzerland, approximately 15% of the population is aware of trade-in programs and know that older technical devices can be returned or recycled for money. In other countries however, that knowledge stands by around 90%.

The monetary value for trade-in programs I would average around CHF 200 per Capita.
If a user sells a device directly over an online platform, that value could easily increase to CHF 300.

When is an electronic device definitely too old?

That of course depends on the device. A very modern device has a longer life span. A MacBook, that is eight or nine years old, can be used by an average user without any problems at all for quite some time. For Smartphones, that average lies between six and seven years. Apart from the engineering, the type of software and regular updates are the factors for its longevity.

We hear that the retail business is undergoing great changes everywhere. Revendo, however, is opening store after store – what are the challenges here?

Retail is not dying but certainly undergoing a great number of changes. Many retailers are still trying to sell the same concepts and services via the retail business, despite the fact, that customers prefer to use these services digitally. If you have a shop offering a limited range of products at a higher price than an online shop and in addition, the customer does not receive professional advice, then it simply is not viable. This was, by the way, a very real example. In our stores, we want to focus on excellent professional advice and a strong customer support. We encourage our clients to come into direct contact with our products: We want them to see, touch and experiment with the devices on offer.

All your stores are situated at much frequented locations. They are seen in the vicinity of train stations or in city centers and surprisingly, many of these locations previously held shops that failed. How do you estimate the risk of such locations?

We deliberately search out locations near train stations. In Basel on the Theaterstrasse or in Bern however, we had to make substantial investments into sales areas in order to suit our needs. We made these investments on our own account though. We strive to integrate and value the mobility behaviour of our customers into our store concepts. We wish to be within easy reach by public transport, bicycle or by foot, so we naturally seek out these locations, although we also have a clientele that is not city-bound. Nationally, our e-commerce business is as valuable as the stores and this keeps an important balance in terms of risks. Online sales are equal to approximately four stores. Both of these areas are equally important. Also, with the launching of every new store, we increase our visibility and this in turn encourages the e-commerce revenue in that respective area.

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