A "perfect storm" is brewing for consumer electronics marketplace Back Market. The items it specializes in – refurbished smartphones, PCs, tablets and their ilk – are in high demand as professionals and students work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. In many regions of the world, unemployment has skyrocketed, so consumers are increasingly budget-conscious. Finally, by extending the lifecycle of consumer devices, e-waste – and the pressure to continually upgrade electronics -- is reduced.
The online e-tailer, headquartered in Paris, launched in 2014. Awareness of e-waste—the metals, chemicals, plastics and other elements in discarded electronics – was escalating as an environmental concern. “Few people were aware that consumer electronics were creating 50 million tons of e-waste and only 20 percent of that was being re-used,” said Serge Verdoux, managing director of Back Market in the U.S. “Back Market envisioned a platform dedicated high-quality, refurbished electronics that would make restored devices mainstream.”
Refurbished phones, PCs and appliances is an estimated $80 billion global market.
Back Market, which entered the U.S. in 2018, has millions of paying customers; is growing annually by more than 100 percent and has raised $120 million from Goldman Sachs, Aglaé Ventures (the venture arm of Groupe Arnault), and Eurazeo Growth. With the advent of the Covid-19 epidemic, sales doubled between March and April this year.
Many businesses, including electronics distributors, provide refurbish/recycle services and products. These b2b transactions largely occur between long-term, established business partners. Consumers are more wary of renovated items, so Back Market partners with professional refurbishers that meet exacting quality standards.