The cellphone repair industry has come a long way from what it was originally, with transformative new technology coming in every year that demands technicians to stay on their toes. This has led to the rise of a lot of businesses looking to capitalize on this particular niche, and the insight of industry veterans is very important in order to navigate this space.
RepairDesk recently had a chance to talk with Jack Zervos, a retail industry veteran and the owner of Phonetabulous, a mobile phone retail store in New South Wales, Australia on the state of the cellphone repair industry and for providing his insight into it.
Tell us about how you started off in the mobile repair business.
I’m a [mobile phone] retailer, and I happen to offer mobile phone repair as one of the many services and products that we offer our customers (about 30%). I accidentally came into this industry as a retail consultant to a client who had a group of stores in Sydney, and wanted to grow them and wanted to franchise them. I came into that business as a service provider and left it after seven years.
Obviously, we didn’t use RepairDesk; we used another system, but that was my intro into the business, and I left that business in January; I got semi-retired, but my oldest son, who had worked in that business since he left school, and my wife, who had worked in that business whilst I was there in an admin HR systems role, wanted to continue on. So, I guess, forced me to reinvest and re-enter as a smaller retailer.
Could you tell us about the people you worked with over the course of your business?
When I left corporate and sort of semi-retired and went into consulting, I started working with smaller family businesses in retail, and one of them happened to be a cellphone repair shop. My former employer/brand at Dr. Boone was one of the first in this industry; they started in 1994.
But small home business, not very enabled, not very refined; it was a small micro-home business with four or five stores. And what I’ve learned is global, many of the participants in this industry are like that. They have three or four shops, maybe five or six. They’re quite local. Some of them mostly work from home.
They’re family businesses – brothers, sisters, husbands, fathers, there are a few kids in each store. They get to a point where they can’t grow any further because they don’t have the capacity; they don’t have the experience, the education; they don’t want to become too big and have to worry about, compliance issues with tax and corporate and employee relations, so they keep it small. That’s the nature of the industry, certainly in Australia.
Can you tell us more about the type of companies operating in that space, and where you see yourself?
There’s a couple of large multi-site players – Happytel in Australia is probably the biggest with regard to a number of sites, excellent Korean company; a few others that have got between fifteen and thirty locations, so like a second-tier retailer across a couple of states. But probably, 80% is still independent, two or three sites, close together, extended family working out of sort of one garage, and that’s the nature of the industry.
The reason we came back into it is because in that environment, it’s not as difficult to do it better and to create a high standard – not based on size, but based on the quality of your offer. We have the commitment to be the best in our category; we entered it for that reason. We have now the commitment to be the biggest, but certainly, we can be acknowledged by our stakeholders, i.e. our suppliers, our employees, and our customers as being the best, which is why we’re in it still, and why we didn’t sort of leaving it and go off and semi-retire again.
How do you feel about the cellphone repair industry in its current state?
Well, the problem that I’ve got is that “cellphones” as you call them – mobile phones, as we call them in Australia – mobile phone repairs are diminishing as a percentage of sales of any cellphone repair store. Any cellphone repair that just fixes phones is disappearing, certainly in our market. Because phones are becoming harder and harder to repair, more and more expensive, more disposable. The core manufacturers, Samsung and Apple, don’t make quality replacement parts readily available.
How do you think a successful repair business needs to be run and what are the challenges?
I think the key to any retail brand is you need to treat it based on the size you want it to be, not the size that you start. You’ll never get a chance to catch up. If you don’t have the systems in place to begin; if you want to run a brand that’s got six, eight, ten, twelve, 20 stores – pick a number, doesn’t matter – you need to have systems in place that are scalable, because, without the scalability of your systems, you’ll never reach that target, you’ll never even get close to it. You learn that with the benefit of education, training & experience.
A lot of these people that have come out of school or that are children of people who have given them a few hundred dollars to set up a mobile phone shop because it worked on YouTube, they’re never going to have the ability to [do so], they’ve only ever run a business as big as the one they’re running today. So, the idea of running a bigger business with 10 or 12 stores might be exciting, but the minute they go and try and do it, they don’t have the education, they don’t have the experience, they haven’t been mentored, they haven’t been exposed that environment to understand what’s involved.
They might be able to sign some leases and open some shops, but to run at all seven days a week once that’s up and running, that’s a very different story.
How do you feel about RepairDesk?
I happen to offer mobile phone repair as one of the many services and products that we offer our customers and in fact, to me, repair desk is a misnomer, because RepairDesk to me is a brilliant point-of-sale system, above and beyond just managing repairs. Its inventory management is excellent, customer management is excellent, so to me, RepairDesk actually sells itself short for what it can do. It’s a really good point of sale system for retail.
RepairDesk makes your life easier by helping you manage your work effortlessly and with just a few clicks. We have everything – from creating repair tickets to inventory management and more. Get a FREE trial of our all-in-one POS software for your cellphone repair shop and see it for yourself!