Varusteleka buys used goods and puts them back on sale: “We train our customers to move from being consumers to users”
Varusteleka has grown into Europe’s largest seller of surplus military clothing. A couple of years ago, the company set up a buy-back system in which customers get up to half of the price of the clothing they return in good condition. Olli Rauhala, Varusteleka’s Business Development Co-ordinator, explains how Varusteleka operates.
“The Varusteleka story began with our founder, Valtteri Lindholm, acquiring surplus military goods, first selling them from his van and eventually opening an online shop. This allowed us to get rid of durable and affordable goods left over in storage and putting them up for sale. So, the whole company is actually based on a circular economy.
At this point, there is not much left to sell from what armies have in storage. This is a positive problem, as consumers are interested in the surplus. On the other hand, it has become difficult for us to acquire goods for sale.
Partly in response to this problem, we developed Varusteleka’s own Kierto Circular economy system. Our customers can return products they have purchased from us if these have been left largely unused for whatever reason. Depending on the condition of the products, the customer can get up to half of the purchase price back in credits that can be used to buy products from our online shop and our dealership.
However, the main idea behind the Kierto system is to make a difference. Kierto is our way to make sure that the goods we sell do not end up in a landfill while still being perfectly usable and to avoid creating the need to manufacture new items to replace them.
We launched the Kierto system in 2017, but really got the system going in 2019. It its first year, 400 products were sold in the Kierto system. Last year, the figure was 900, and this year, 2021, we had already sold more Kierto products than that by June. Although the Kierto system does not rake in huge profits, we are making a difference and creating continuous customer relationships. At the same time, we train our customers to think that taking good care of our products will extend their life cycle. When you take good care of the items, you get up to half the price back.
Nearly half of our sales come from new products released under our brands. In designing our own products, we pay attention to material choices and aim to monitor their environmental impacts and keep developing better products. We design durable, functional and versatile products. Just recently, we hired an ‘irresponsibility co-ordinator’, whose job involves further developing environmental impact assessment and reporting.
Our vision is nothing short of Total World Domination! Alongside this, we wish to reset Varusteleka’s environmental impact to zero. Growing in the international market will ensure that we will have more influence to make a positive impact. We want to create real change, both for other companies and in the ways consumers think.”