The "enormous" demand for IT devices has been a boost for the circular economy, according to Leon Timmermans, CEO of Flex IT Distribution.
Netherlands-based Flex - formerly known as Xeptor until its rebrand last year - is part of the Dutch reseller giant Infotheek Group. It provides refurbishment, ITAD and rental services and operates exclusively through its channel partners. It counts Dell, HP, Lenovo, Cisco and Apple among its vendor partners and operates across Europe, including the UK.
In January, the company set out to double its revenue by 50 per cent but it has achieved that goal in the three months due to booming demand for remote working devices, Timmermans told CRN, though he was coy on further details of the financial target.
"During the COVID-19 period, I would say in those three months we have all almost achieved that goal already, based upon the huge explosion of demand for devices in that time," he explained.
"Looking at the bottom line, if I could continue what we've done in the last three months then we would already be on track [to hit the 36 months revenue target].
"But I'm very realistic and I've explained to our private equity owners that this is not a normal situation - there will be a change and I think we will keep on developing the plan because that change is now very visible."
Flex IT had anticipated the forthcoming disruption as China locked down at the end of January but Timmermans said that it was already engaging with large resellers across Europe about adopting a circular approach as pan-European governments now insist on sustainable IT in their tenders. The COVID-19 crisis just accelerated this adoption, he added.
"We've seen throughout these months not only the demand shift - which can be temporary because it's only based upon not having enough availability of new devices - but we also see the change in the resellers and in the end users," he elaborated.
"They are now understanding that the overproduction on new products was partly caused by the wish to always have the latest and greatest products. There has now been an enormous shift in the last few months; we've signed more or less all of the larger resellers in Europe into our circular programme.
"We've seen tenders and requests coming in like never before, on amounts that we've never seen before for laptops and desktops partly caused by the COVID-19 situation, but also caused by the fact that [resellers and customers] stepped away from the latest and greatest."
Timmermans strongly believes that the COVID-19 pandemic will implement "real change" in both the circular IT economy and the tech industry as a whole. Vendors are now less wary of the circular economy, seeing it as a financially viable model to building new products that are using up finite resources, he said, adding that resellers too are changing their discussion points when it comes to the circular economy.
"If we look at our group of resellers that we serve within Europe, those discussions on price are not the main point anymore, when they were two to three years ago," he said. "That discussion has disappeared."
On a company level, Timmermans said that stronger relationships have developed among his colleagues as they get to grips with remote working and new ways of collaborating.
"We have never had such a huge amount of bonding in our company than we've had in the last few months," he stated.
"The COVID-19 situation brings people closer as we understand that we are also vulnerable, but on the other end it has created communication which was not there before as we had to find solutions to communicate to all our personnel."
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