A mobility dealer based in Hampshire has raised the question of industry bodies such as the BHTA coming up with a solution to combat the perceived problem of manufacturers selling directly to the end-user for cheaper and cutting out their retail network.
Out & About Independent Living’s director, Deborah McCallum, asked why manufacturers are not able to talk to retailers to find a solution to suit all parties and particularly the end-user.
Ms McCallum said that the dealer recently learned of another manufacturer who has begun selling directly to the consumer on the internet and offering products priced lower than retailers can buy directly from the manufacturer.
She said: “We fully understand the importance of the internet to the consumer – it allows them to compare and contrast products very easily.
“It obviously allows them to make price comparisons and buy at an advantageous price. However what it doesn’t do is to allow them to try the products before they buy. Nor does it cause them to consider perhaps longer term needs as well as current needs.
“That is the role of the retailer but with low or no margin this will be a short-term offer before retailers will go out of business.”
She said that if manufacturers operate in this way, they could lose retail partners who may decide to delist products and buy other similar brands.
Ms McCallum feels that few products are truly unique and claims that manufacturers do not invest enough money in R&D to launch wholly innovative products.