Sales of refurbished products have soared in France. But two refurbished smartphones out of three sold in France are imported from abroad.
With nearly 3 million refurbished smartphones sold in France in 2021, a figure up 20% over one year, France has become a field of choice for players in the sector and a market estimated at 700 million euros (for 14% of annual smartphone sales in volume). At a time of galloping inflation and a shortage of electronic components, refurbished goods continue to be successful: “It’s a minor activity compared to the core business of the Fnac Darty group, but which is showing double-digit growth. “, welcomes Martin Aunos, the second life director of Fnac Darty. Good news for the planet? Yes… but could do better.
Smartphones sourced abroad
“In France, each year 1 million phones are collected and nearly 3 million are sold, so part of the refurbished sold in France comes from abroad”, details Augustin Becquet, CEO of Recommerce, a subcontractor specialized in recovery solutions for players such as Bouygues, Amazon and Samsung. The refurbished market in France therefore gives pride of place to imports. “Some refurbished players have a business model that consists of buying lots and products in surplus and subsidized markets such as Japan, the United States or Australia, where consumers have $100 packages and therefore recover a new mobile every 24 months. Then, they resell them on the French and European markets”, explains Augustin Becquet. Recommerce, for its part, favors the sourcing of products locally. Frédérick Baby-Marinpouy, head of Expodispo.fr, a showroom model resale platform, explains that “reconditioned flows have dried up with the pandemic and the shortage of raw materials“.
To improve the refurbished market, the company wants more spare parts to be available so that products become easier and cheaper to repair. “We take back 600,000 products per year out of 7,000 references, explains Augustin Becquet, there are certain products that we cannot repair because the spare parts are not available. In recycling, there is little recovery because the components are mixed and the extraction of the materials then becomes complex. By having generic spare parts on these products we would be able to bring down the prices”, he continues. If from an ecological point of view, importing products from the American or Asian continent to resell them in Europe is questionable, the approach remains partly virtuous for the CEO of Recommerce, because “there is no extraction of new matter”. Augustin Becquet has become a stakeholder in Eurefas, an association to defend the interests of refurbished players at European level. The members of the association sign a charter in which they undertake to promote a circular economy.
A possible local solution
“At Fnac Darty, we focus on products rather from our ecosystem, refurbished by one of our four workshops in France or with our partners in the local circuit, unlike a refurbished market which is very sourced in the United States. “, also remarks Martin Aunos. Refurbished at Fnac Darty employs around forty employees backed by the after-sales service of the group, which represents several thousand people. “For example, we take back PS4s via YesYes in Caen and then resell them. Our objective is to close the loop”. According to the Recommerce Kantar barometer, only 27% of French people have already sold their second-hand mobile. The others keep them in reserve in case of need or prevent their data from being hacked, or give it to a loved one. “There is a recovery tank in France, notes Augustin Becquet, CEO of Recommerce. Smartphones are mainly reused in the family or friendly circle, and a large part ends up in the drawers. The person will then only use it 2 or 3 days since it will no longer be technologically up to date the day it will be needed. We must therefore encourage them to resell them”, he continues. And once this bet has been won, the ecological mission of the reconditioned will be perfectly achieved.