Despite the onwards march of narrow margins and low-priced kit, there is still room in the UK and EU markets for profitable activities around refurbishment, recycling and returns if the experience of a reseller is any guide.
Matt Archer, managing director of refurbishment and returns specialist ICP Networks, said his company is continuing to expand another 20 per cent over the next 12 months in both headcount and revenue terms – with plenty of new opportunity on the horizon.
"We are operating in the UK and Europe and we are continuing to grow. And with our UK contracts, we want to extend those on to the Europe platform: Germany, Switzerland, France and Holland, they're the largest, so they're probably the biggest focus," Archer says. "But we also help distributors in Slovakia and elsewhere; we are not discriminating."
That means new European business as well as building out and developing ICP's current customer base, he said.
The company also has distributors and work through the US – where Archer was born – as well as Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Mongolia.
"Believe it or not, there is a lot of mining in Mongolia and Australia, and a lot of our work is through global mining companies, helping them support their infrastructure in weird and wonderful places. But most of it is through the UK and Europe, with the US the next biggest market," he said.
Most of the deals involve a non-disclosure agreement, he said – a common practice in an industry where some of the "name" players, rightly or wrongly, worry about potential brand damage related to trade in "second-hand" goods.
"We have been in business for a long time. We work with manufacturers, distributors and resellers to maximise our knowledge of their installed stock: equipment that has not been used, stock returns, and so on," he said.
"We have a very green business as well – three times 'carbon neutral'."
Awareness of the environmental and sustainability prerogative has gone on increasing in business, he said, and more customers consider green credentials as positive factors in their IT purchasing decisions – another factor that is helping the company grow.
"Recycling, reuse, redeployment, and green IT are key to our ethos," Archer confirmed.
That's especially true in a political environment where businesses and government bodies alike are expected to go on containing or even reducing costs even as the economy picks up speed, he said.
ICP has customers in 43 countries, to which it supplies a range of components and systems including rare, discontinued and legacy parts. Its IT asset management business helps customers redeploy old IT equipment via resale, leasing and recycling options. Customers include Samsung, BT, the NHS, IBM and British Airways, according to its website.
As reported on ChannelWeb last week, the Cheshire-based SMB is expanding on the wings of a £4.8m banking package of loans, financing and forex products, having moved to a new headquarters and added staff. The plan is to go on adding headcount over the next two years.
Jason Trigg, commercial director for the Manchester area at HSBC, said in that announcement that the bank has awarded the 12-year-old Poynton supplier of new and refurbished Cisco hardware a finance package worth £4.8m from its £200m SMB fund to target European growth as well as core UK activities.
"ICP Networks is a forward-thinking business as demonstrated by the investment it has made in its new HQ, which is a great example of how commercial buildings should operate," he said.
ICP should now be able to expand its stock holding as well as offer a broader range of services to customers, he added.
"We've got the finance, we've got the customers, and we've got the ability," ICP's Archer said.
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