Taking a bite'Green' IT company launches iFix2Go service retail model
One in two American adults owns either a smartphone or tablet, and many own both, with electronics giant Apple Inc. among the market leaders because of its iPhone and iPad devices.
Throw in the iPod line, a digital music device that has been around for more than a decade, and "iProducts" are a common find in U.S. households and corporate settings.
The popularity of the iPhone over the last five-plus years — iPad the last two-plus — also has created a growing market for repairs. That fact has not gone unnoticed by companies such as GreenLoop IT Inc., the parent company of Harrisburg-based PC Parts Inc.
GreenLoop is a "green" information technology portfolio company made up of eight specialized businesses that cater to the IT market through aftermarket service parts and related services. PC Parts, a global distributor of refurbished computer parts, is its core business.
Its newest subsidiary — iFix2Go, a retail-oriented service company focused on hardware repair of iProducts — launched this summer.
"Our main mission is to extend the useful life of existing technology," said Adam Crockett, senior vice president of sales and marketing for PC Parts and president of GreenLoop.
iFix2Go aims to be that quicker, low-cost aftermarket alternative to the manufacturer, where a damaged mobile device might be out of the hands of the consumer for several days.
The technicians at iFix2Go will repair the Apple product while the customer shops other retail stores, said Matt Arnold, PC Parts' director of sales and marketing and general manager of the new brand.
GreenLoop opened its first pilot kiosk in August at the Park City Center in Lancaster County and plans to launch at least three more iFix2Go kiosks in high-foot-traffic areas such as malls — preferably where Apple stores already exist — after the holidays, officials said.
"It took time. Unlike the spare parts play, this is a new parts business," Crockett said of the Apple repair subsidiary.
The company had been looking for ways to play in the mobile space for a few years.
"This made us change our model," Crockett said.
PC Parts and its sister companies have largely focused on the business-to-business model and working with third-party service providers. This new subsidiary tackles the end user.
"It's the complete opposite extreme," he said.
However, it's a direction the company had to go next to further diversify, officials said. And with the explosion in employee-owned Apple devices in the workplace, the investment of intellectual capital made sense, said George Crist Jr., president of PC Parts and CEO of GreenLoop.
"We thought carefully about mobility," he said. "We do logistics, repair and service well. We looked at our core skills and what was available for mobile products."
GreenLoop's core parts business will supply the kiosks.
"We're trying to construct a very service-focused experience for the customer," Crist said.
In its limited time at Park City, iFix2Go has averaged about six or seven service appointments daily, Arnold said.
"We only see that number increasing," he said.
Future iFix2Go locations could easily be found in the Northeast — from New York to Maryland — and then nationwide, Crockett said.
The company also will offer an iFix2Go insurance product to core PC Parts customers. In addition, iFix2Go service will be available at the company's home base on Paxton Street in Harrisburg.
Currently, about 90 percent of the portfolio company's revenue comes from PC Parts, officials said.
The company reported $10.4 million in revenue last year, according to Business Journal records. That number continues to grow.
In theory, a green IT company does better in a down economy, Crist said. Since many corporate and other users of IT equipment tend to keep products well past their warranty, the business is "economy resistant," he said.
"Computers, printers and laptops break. They don't care what the economy is doing," Crist said. "We seem to sell parts through any kind of weather."
The company ships about 1,000 parts per day, he said.
Apple products, which tend to be more expensive to buy and, with fewer models in the supply chain compared with Android devices, are more likely to be repaired versus replaced, Arnold said.
The iFix2Go stores are focusing on Apple for that reason.
Adding other manufacturers (see "Market share, page 4") to the equation significantly grows the parts inventory needed to fix devices.
"We want to make sure we're good at doing one thing," Arnold said.
The company is not ruling out the possibility of one day adding non-Apple devices.
The emergence of the company's consumer brand figures to spread the revenue around for GreenLoop moving forward, officials said.
"Mobility is not going anywhere," Crist said. "We're seeing a slow displacement of the desktop computer with the mobile smartphone and tablets."
The post-warranty market for IT parts in the U.S. is about $500 million, he added.
"We've got a lot of blue sky above us in that space," he said.
Tablet ownership among U.S. adults increased to 18 percent in January 2012 from 11 percent in July 2011, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, in collaboration with The Economist Group.
Currently, about 22 percent own a tablet.
Of the tablets out there, the Google Android operating system powers 48 percent of them, the study found. Much of that is due to Amazon's Kindle Fire. Apple powers the rest of the space with its iPad.
The same study said 44 percent of U.S. adults own a smartphone. Half of U.S. adults own either a tablet or smartphone, the study said.
A separate report from comScore Inc., a leader in measuring the digital world, found Samsung to be the top handset maker, with 25.7 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers. LG was second with 18.2 percent of the market, followed by Apple with 17.1 percent.
The report said 234 million Americans age 13 and older were using mobile devices as of the end of August.
Android led among smartphone platforms with 52.6 percent of subscribers, while Apple accounted for 34.3 percent. The comScore report said 116.5 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones.
1991: George Crist Sr. starts PC Parts Inc., a global remanufacturer and distributor of aftermarket information technology (IT) service parts. The parts business is a spinoff from Computer Maintenance Service, which Crist founded in 1985 and later sold.
1998: George Crist Jr. becomes president of PC Parts.
1999: Company launches online retailer PCSurplusOnline.com.
2000: Regional IT consulting firm Penn Data Network is created.
2008: Company unveils local electronics scrap processor PC Surplus Recycling.
2009: The firm is recapitalized and renamed GreenLoop IT Inc. PC Parts remains core business unit under this "green" IT portfolio company.
2010: GreenLoop launches IT equipment lessor Technology Value Financial.
2011: Company starts online retailer, USPrinterParts.com.
2012: Two new subsidiaries are created. iFix2Go is started as retail-oriented service company for Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad and iPod. An online retailer, TechPartsWarehouse.com, also rolls out.
Source: GreenLoop IT Inc.
By the numbers
8: The number of companies under the GreenLoop IT banner. PC Parts Inc. is the firm's primary business unit. iFix2Go is its next big brand with an emphasis on the end user, rather than the business-to-business market.
90 percent: PC Parts accounts for this much of the portfolio company's revenue.
$10.4 million: GreenLoop's 2011 revenue.
4,082: GreenLoop's 2012 ranking on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies.
1: The number of iFix2Go kiosks.
3: The anticipated next wave of regional iFix2Go kiosks. The company is targeting high-traffic areas such as malls with Apple stores.
60: The approximate number of full-time employees.
250,000: The number of IT service parts the company ships annually.
$500 million: An estimate of the post-warranty parts market in the U.S.
Sources: GreenLoop IT Inc., Business Journal records