Most people barely scratch the surface of what their computer can do. Most of the time, their PC is little more than a glorified typewriter and photo album. Sending emails and surfing a little on the Internet is the extent of their online activities.
“A refurbished second-hand computer will accomplish these tasks just as well as the latest high-spec machine but for a fraction of the price,” says Managing Director and company founder Ansgar Cordes. “That is the philosophy behind our business idea in a nutshell.”
Mr. Cordes set up ITSCO in 1999 in response to requests from local companies to liquidate large stocks of obsolete hardware. Instead of simply scrapping the machines, he decided to refurbish them and sell them on to families without the means to buy a new PC.
“Soon it wasn’t just families and single parents that were coming to us but schools, municipalities and small businesses,” says Mr. Cordes. “We refurbish the old machines to as-new standard. Businesses can deduct capital expenditure against tax and therefore tend to invest in top-drawer equipment, which we can then pass on to our customers at a significant discount.”
ITSCO recycled more than 150,000 computers and IT accessories and components in this way in 2013, and the volume of hardware it handles keeps growing. In the beginning, the company sold through eBay but now has its own webshop. In 2003, the company moved into larger premises to cope with rising demand but has now outgrown the 5,000 m² building.
“Turnover increased by 35% last year, and this year, we will buy a 2 ha plot of land from the town on which we plan to build a 20,000 m² facility,” says Mr. Cordes. “We have already outgrown our home region and now generate 30% of turnover from exports both within the EU and beyond.”
ITSCO now has 80,000 regular customers in Europe. Its customer base is split evenly between schools and local authorities, insurance companies and banks, industrial clients and retailers, and finally private customers.
“Our key strength is the quality of the equipment we offer in our webshop,” says Mr. Cordes. “We benefit a lot from word of mouth recommendations. Nearly 75% of our business comes from positive referrals.”
Another positive factor is the speed of delivery. The vast majority of clients receive their equipment within 24 hours of ordering thanks to a well-organized warehousing system. Demand looks set to continue to grow although the second-hand market is as much influenced by trends as the new equipment market.
“Demand for servers is declining in response to the development of cloudbased services while demand for tablets and smartphones is rising,” says Mr. Cordes. “Notebooks are also much in demand. For me, it is important that disadvantaged families are able to afford to keep up with the digital revolution so that their children enjoy the same advantages as their better off peers.”
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