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Ever increasing circles

Circular IT companies have benefited from a surge in demand for home working laptops

The rush to home working prior to the March 23 lockdown generated massive demand for laptops, computer monitors and other essential tech items.

Analysis by research company Context shows that in the four weeks to April 5, there was a 45% rise in the value of mobile computing sales through IT distribution in the UK & Ireland, compared to the same period last year. There were also big sales increases for smart home & office products (53%), desktop computing (23%), displays (16%) and computer accessories (13%).

The combination of surging demand and supply shortages caused by China’s own lockdown in February and March has forced many companies to seek alternatives to new devices, from reactivating their own decommissioned laptops to buying professionally refurbished equipment.

One beneficiary of this trend is Infotheek Group company Flex IT Distribution, formerly known as Xeptor, which works closely with vendors such as HP, Dell, Apple and Lenovo, buying their excess stock and refurbishing older laptops, servers and mobile devices, which it grades from ‘minus 1’ to ‘minus 10’ (the former being just one iteration below the latest model).

Products are supplied with warranties ranging from one year to three years for the Approved Selection Line and sold through a network of channel partners throughout Europe, including the UK.

Growing demand

Leon Timmermans
Leon Timmermans

Flex IT CEO Leon Timmermans says demand for the company’s ‘circular’ products has grown significantly since March.

“In the last month particularly, the market has exploded. Everybody is suddenly realising that the quality and function of a product is more important than it being the latest, shiniest version. A laptop might be five years old, but you can still use it to do whatever you need to do. Demand has accelerated like crazy over the last eight weeks as firms recognise the quality of products available in the circular market,” he explained.

As well as selling vendors’ excess stock and refurbished laptops, mobile devices, storage and servers, Flex IT has a Rental division that supplies temporary IT equipment (some new) to trade fairs, exhibitions, workshops, seminars and other events. With Covid-19, this service is also being used by businesses to hire large quantities of mobile devices for home workers on lockdown.

Flex IT also runs an ITAD (IT Asset Disposal) scheme on behalf of its resellers, which allows organisations to dispose of old or unwanted devices and use their residual value to purchase new equipment at a discount, with Flex IT refurbishing unwanted equipment (including its own ex-rental stock) for resale.

Tripling output
Another company benefiting from the shortage of home working tech, notably laptops, is Circular Computing, which each week has been producing three times its normal monthly output of carbon-neutral remanufactured laptops. It points out that even before the COVID-19 pandemic there was growing demand for its products, driven by rising prices for new IT caused by more expensive raw materials e.g. an 80% increase in the price of palladium this year.

It also highlights the changing attitude of manufacturers, citing an HP direct mail campaign running in Denmark for its new Elitebook 840 G6 laptop, which also features the Elitebook 840 G1 from Circular Computing. Under the headline ‘We believe in reincarnation – at least when it applies to HP Notebooks’, HP explains that the Circular Computing 840 G1 looks and performs exactly like a new machine.

Circular Computing says such an endorsement from a global brand is unprecedented. Founder Rod Neale added: “The endorsement from HP recognises that our remanufactured laptops offer the perfect solution for people working remotely who want identical performance and reliability to a new machine, but at lower cost and with immediate availability. Plus, users have the peace of mind of knowing their purchase is genuinely ethical. Every Circular Computing laptop is certified carbon-neutral, and we invest in reforestation, renewable energy and social programmes worldwide.”