Circular Economy Highlights with Kingfisher’s John Coleman

At CCS Insight’s Predictions 2024 and Beyond in-person event last week, several companies involved in the circular economy discussed the state of the sector and gave an industry perspective on the second-hand device market. This is the first in a series of three articles revealing highlights from the panel discussion.

Kingfisher was represented by Vice President of UK, John Coleman, who outlined the firm’s philosophy of “delivering value back to customers”, building circular economy solutions for mobile network operators and retailers wanting to offer a more complete experience for customers buying a smartphone.

Over the last three years, the company has been working with Telstra, a network operator in Australia. John outlined how Kingfisher’s product offering provides a flexible solution that allows customers to upgrade a device “whenever they want, for any reason, no matter what condition the device is in”. Through its partnerships, Kingfisher is seeking to “completely change consumer behaviour, giving control back to the customer”.

John expanded on a crucial element of Kingfisher’s strategy: owning the risks associated with offering a fully circular programme to make it as easy as possible for customers to repair, upgrade or trade in their devices. This has allowed Kingfisher’s operator partners to change customer behaviour with the added benefit of ensuring there’s more value generated from the relationship customers have with their service provider.

John believes that Kingfisher’s early success can help the industry move toward what he describes as a “one-to-one exchange”, where one device is returned for every device sold. This will help the industry achieve circularity by granting a second, third and fourth life to as many smartphones as possible through repair or refurbishment.

Another topic covered was Kingfisher’s belief that offering “smartphone-as-a-service” will be crucial for future circular economy initiatives. Interestingly, this was reflected in one of our predictions this year: we predict that by the end of 2024, at least five mobile network operators in Europe offer a smartphone-as-a-service solution for consumers.

On this topic, John reiterated the importance of Kingfisher’s approach. He believes that allowing people to use a smartphone with the added benefit of being able to upgrade the device at any time in any condition, have it repaired with ease and receive a guaranteed trade-in price when upgrading is the key to unlocking the significant market potential.

Furthermore, this will make it possible to deliver more sustainable outcomes in the smartphone market, extending the lifetime of devices by repairing, refurbishing and reselling surplus phones, often through the same channels that Kingfisher is already working in.

CCS Insight estimates that the global circular economy for smartphones, tablets and smartwatches had a net value of $31.5 billion in 2022 and expects further growth in coming years, with sales in the organized second-hand market exceeding 182 million units in 2023.

Thank you to John and Kingfisher for contributing to the insightful discussion. You can watch the full panel below.

You can watch the replays of our online Predictions event and download a booklet containing all 85 predictions on our website.

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