Simplyhealth rules out mobility retail revival but says it ‘may work with partners’

Raman Sankaran, chief commercial officer, Simplyhealth

Simplyhealth, the parent firm of mobility retail chain The Unlimited Company, has confirmed that it will not be re-launching any physical shops dedicated to mobility equipment for the foreseeable future after it closed the doors on its bricks and mortar retail proposition last week.

But the company said it is looking at other ways of operating in the market and as well as launching its own initiatives it is “looking at opportunities of working with partners”, although it was not divulged which businesses or professionals will be targeted and whether this will include mobility dealers or suppliers.

Simplyhealth closed 10 shops last week and put five up for sale a year after launching The Unlimited Company brand which was designed to take a new approach to mobility retail. The group’s chief commercial officer, Raman Sankaran, explained to AMP that the proposition had “not hit the sweet spot” and said the company would not reattempt a foray into retail under the same brand. Instead it will look to work with other parties.

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“Looking into the future it certainly won’t be a dedicated bricks and mortar-type proposition. That’s the area we’ve explored and that’s where we believe we haven’t got the formula quite right.

“But we’ll take that learning into the future and explore other propositions, other solutions that meet this need. We’re looking at doing that on our own but we’re also looking at opportunities of working with partners. While on the table I haven’t got all the answers right now we’re going to be looking at that and ask what could the solutions look like in the future? But I will say it wouldn’t be standalone dedicated mobility stores under The Unlimited Company brand.”

Mr Sankaran added that the concept behind The Unlimited Company brand was to create an experiential feel so people could see, touch and feel different ranges of mobility products. The shops were also designed to be hubs for mobility advice in the community – an area which Simplyhealth feels has been largely untouched.

He said: “That whole formula, conceptually, that’s exactly the gap we were trying to fill and to a degree we’ve helped a lot of customers with that proposition, but practically in terms of that delivery and execution it didn’t quite hit the sweet spot.”

Simplyhealth believes there is definitely a gap in the market for a model that helps customers which advice on healthcare and mobility but admits The Unlimited Company proposition did not make itself sustainable.

Mr Sankaran concluded: “We tried to give it the very best chance to succeed… but in the past few weeks we’ve taken stock again in what we’ve seen from the back of it. And that’s what’s led to the difficult decision we’ve had to make.

“There’s a definite customer need there, however even with our refined proposition, which was still heavily store-based, we weren’t seeing the current proposition sustainably being able to meet that need into the future.

“Our very immediate focus is around colleagues and customers of The Unlimited Company to make sure we’re supporting them through this transitional period too.”

Speaking in regards to leftover stock owned by The Unlimited Company, Mr Sankaran said it will ensure all planned orders are fulfilled and will then be “exploring a number of options in terms of reaming stock.”

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