In recent weeks the mobility industry has witnessed a number of notable stories, entries and exits, which to some, made April appear as a microcosm for longer-term trends in the sector. Ableworld recorded its highest-ever week of sales and another retailer etched plans to open 22 stores in the next three years.
Meanwhile, an independent dealer in Crawley was forced to close just six months after its campaign to promote smaller businesses and stand up to national chains. What stories like this suggest to me is that the sector is undeniably experiencing a degree of consolidation and fragmented competition seems to be allowing larger firms to muscle their way towards more and more market share.
We know how difficult it is for an independent to break into the sector and as others are squeezed out by the larger players and online resellers with lower prices, it begs the question, is the ‘chain store age’ finally catching up on the mobility segment of retail?
I’m sure plenty of smaller dealers around the country would agree that it is a tough climate, but the sun is by no means setting on independent mobility retailers. Speaking to dealers across the UK, it’s clear that there are plenty who are here to stay.
Take the May issue’s star retailer, Cumbria Mobility, for example. As you will discover, boss Stephen Cornwell and his team have honed a model that is able to thrive in the face of multiples. While some may interpret last month’s market shifts as a barometer for what’s to come, it’s important to consider the countless stories that don’t make the headlines. Every day, smaller dealers across the country go to incredible lengths to ensure their loyal customers are kept mobile and independent.
So while there is undoubtedly consolidation in the marketplace, smaller dealerships who are able to balance their clients’ best interests while conducting sensible, diverse and innovative business, can look forward to years of prosperity to come.