Batteries inlcuded

RET UK's MD talks to PCR about the changing face of his business
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RET started out recycling IT equipment. Is that still a large part of your business focus?
That's one part of our business. It's actually probably the smaller part of our business now. The main part of our business – and what we will be promoting at Channel Expo – is our range of Power products. We distribute the POWERSQUARED brand. RET itself was established in 1999, so we're celebrating ten years this year as well. We've got two fairly distinct divisions to the business: one of them is the asset management aspect, where we deal with processing and remarketing of used IT equipment. We're pretty well known in the industry for that.

About two years ago we set up the power products division, which deals with power products for all mobile devices – battery and AC adaptors for a laptop, MP3 players, for instance. We're expanding the mobile phone side of the range enormously at the moment, and we're looking forward to exhibiting that again at Channel Expo this year.

The asset management division is still there and is doing very well. We wanted to be a little bit different on that side of the business than everyone else, because there are a lot of companies just literally shifting pallets of filthy machines. We tend to take them in and fully refurbish them. We'll re-spray them in-house if they need it. We've got our own range of environmentally friendly packaging, which only uses cardboard – no plastic. This is to make it a finished product, which is what retailers need really. They don't want it filthy and covered in stickers. It's a finished product that resellers are able to sell immediately.

So that's still very much a focus for you despite being the smaller segment?
Absolutely. It's only the smaller part of our business because the power side of it has grown so much. It's not reflective of what's happened to that side of the business.

So tell us more about the power business?

We launched that side of the operation about two years ago, and we sell the POWERSQUARED range of products. They are power products for all types of portable equipment. There was a gap in the market – if you want to use the car analogy, you could go to Sony and buy your Rolls Royce battery, which will cost you £120, or you had to take your chances on eBay with something of unknown origin, with no or little warranty, for about £20.

What we've done is an Audi product at VW pricing. We've got a range of batteries around about the £30 mark, which are really high quality, plus we give you a 13-month warranty.

What would you say your current market share is?

In terms of our products, I would say we're probably number two in the market in the UK. Our obvious goal is to be number one.

What are the benefits of having a green image?
One of the things we're interested in, and are well ahead of schedule with, is the legislation being introduced later this year to cover batteries. The current WEEE regulations don't cover those devices. We are now offering all of our dealers a battery take-back service – for every lithium ion battery or AC adaptor battery that they buy from us, they can send it back and we can recycle it for them. And we're going to be offering bins and containers and things for our dealers, as their customers are going to be asking for it. Not because of the legislation, but because of the environmental impact.

This is hugely important. The WEEE legislation was a nightmare for resellers in the first instance, back when it was launched. This is a problem that's going to become more and more evident, and we wanted to be ahead of the game with that, which is why we said to our customers, let us deal with it and don't worry about it. Send them back to us and we'll recycle them for free.

What are your primary markets in the UK?

The small independent dealer market. We've got a registered partner scheme for the POWERSQUARED range, which we've got about 300 to 350 members signed up to. The goal is to get it to about 500 to 600. When they sign up we're giving them additional marketing support, free point of sale materials, and we also offer a direct shipment scheme for them as well – whereby we can ship the item direct to their customer for as little as £2.50, which can include their own dispatch note as well.

The biggest problem with a product like this is we supply batteries for 12,000 different types of notebooks. Now an independent dealer can't possibly attempt to stock all of those. So we split the product range in two. One is our retail based products – universal chargers – which give the dealer something to put in the customer's hand if they need it there and then. Then in addition to that we do the specific range of batteries. There's just far too many of them for shops to stock, so what they do is go to our website, scroll down to the exact model, and then we will ship it out either to the dealer or the customer.

Where are you planning to be in a few years time?

We want to be the one-stop solution for all power and portable devices, and to try and promote the POWERSQUARED brand and ensure it is a recognised name on the High Street.

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