In the early 2000s Craig Plowden was the financial director for Energizer South Africa. This position allowed him to see the problems which both manufacturers and retailers were experiencing at the back ends of their supply chains. Stores would give hundreds of thousands of rands of stock credit which manufacturers never saw and on average somewhere between 20% and 40% of returned items went missing. At the root of the problem was a lack of accountability – at every level of just about every manufacturer and retailer in the country.
In 2005 the penny dropped and Craig realised this operational nightmare was also a serious business opportunity. At that time he didn’t know what the solution was, but he knew that there had to be a better way to manage returns. And so he took to the internet. Once he’d exhausted what Google had to offer he turned to Amazon. The more he read about returns management and reverse logistics, the more convinced he became that the South African market was in desperate need of a specialist reverse logistics provider.
Discussions with the CEOs of the major distributors in South Africa made things even clearer for Craig – if he was going to do this thing, he was going to have to go it alone. He left Energizer in 2007 and founded Revlogs. The first two years were all about business plans and revised business plans…until Revlogs landed its first client, Massmart, in 2009. Things started small. For the first six months Revlogs operated out of Craig’s garage and their fleet comprised the family car and a Venter trailer. They finally moved into a proper warehouse after breezing through the initial three-store pilot project with flying colours. Since then the company’s turnover, profits, expertise and knowledge have all grown exponentially.
- In 2009 Craig completed his MBA thesis on the benefits of implementing a bespoke reverse logistics solution at a national retailer.
- Revlogs has moved into its fourth Johannesburg warehouse and it also has offices in Cape Town, Durban and Limpopo.
- The company services six of South Africa’s nine provinces and 78% of its population.
- Revlogs now services 75 Massmart stores (with more in the pipeline) and its client base has grown to include other household names such as Electrolux, Kelvinator, Bosch, Groupon, Kalahari and Prestigio.
- Since inception Revlogs’ turnover has grown substantially and the company now employs 70 people and their fleet has increased by 300% since inception.
- Revlogs has improved repair turnaround times for its major clients by as much as 30% which translates to a real bottom line improvement of up to 5% at no extra cost to the clients.
What’s more, in 2014, Revteq – a subsidiary specialising in repairs and repackaging – opened in Johannesburg. It has since launched in Cape Town and Revteq is on its way to Durban soon. The establishment of Revteq means that Revlogs is able to offer an all-in-one reverse logistics solution (returns, repairs, repackaging, recycling, reselling) to rival the best America and Europe have to offer. It goes without saying that Revlogs is streets ahead of the competition in South Africa.
The early days when Revlogs was searching for its first client seem like distant history. Revlogs is now a nationwide company with a reputation to match and Craig expects the future to be even rosier. Between 5% and 12% of items sold are eventually returned to retailers and to say that this market is untapped is a serious understatement. A recent flurry of new clients in the online shopping environment bodes very well as does the establishment of Fetch It Fix It – a ‘concierge’ repairs arm of the company targeted at consumers.
As the adage goes, ‘watch this space…’