QUOTE 1: “If some stores are sitting there with doom and gloom believing they can’t go against the trend of what they hear on the TV – they are so wrong. Anyone sitting there thinking retail, as we know it is dead, needs to think again. You have to give a good service and ensure you work hard to get and keep those customers, whether they be the end-customer, their children or the healthcare professionals.”

ANSWER: Mike Williams, managing director of Ableworld, issuing a rallying call to mobility dealers to be more optimistic about the fate of the high street and the industry. Sales in the company’s own stores are up 10% since the start of its most recent financial year.

QUOTE 2: “Yes, this is a commercial building, we pay a retail rent, but our commitment is the space we’ve invested in. It’s not just about finding space to put product on, it’s about finding space that people can use in different ways.”

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ANSWER: James Parramore, managing director of Ross Care, speaking about the company’s new store concept that is built on signposting and advice rather than simply selling. He hopes the store will set the tone for mobility shops in the future.

QUOTE 3: “Although as the managing director I still have a few years behind me before giving up the job, it is nice to know that the next generation of the family is pushing forward. As the younger generations move into the family, there is an evident change to develop more modern and media-based channels for consistent development, enabling us to maintain flexible with the movements within the industry.”

ANSWER: Richard Holland-Oakes, managing director of Recare, said a succession crisis in the mobility sector could be looming but is thankful the next generation of his family has ensured the dealer’s future. Retailers expressed mixed opinions on how to attract new blood.

QUOTE 4: “I think the opportunities are there for women and I am not sure there are many barriers, but some firms do seem to lack appeal for female employees. Perhaps it is all the macho zooming about on scooters in matching team polo shirts at trade fairs that alienates women. Or perhaps the style of some mobility companies is a bit aggressive and oriented towards a no frills, pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap approach? I suspect many women find this rather boring professionally.”

ANSWER: Charlotte Gillan, managing director at Classic Canes, shared her thoughts on what more the industry could be doing to attract women workers. A number of key industry figures think there is plenty the sector can do to encourage equal opportunities.

QUOTE 5: “[We’ve] historically probably supported the bigger brands, which is when you’re under pressure to grow, probably the right strategy. But I’ve come full circle and want to go back to the roots of supporting those traditional dealers. By having that next day delivery it’s a better service than e-commerce competitors can offer, who can often only offer up to 3pm or 4pm. It’s creating a more equal playing field.”

ANSWER: Grant Abrahams, retail director at Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare, describing the cultural shift he is pushing at the supplier designed to ensure support for smaller, physical dealers in addition to other sales channels. The company has pledged even more support for independents in 2019.

QUOTE 6: “We’re 30% up. Every single week, every month and every quarter we’re knocking it out of the park. At the end of the year we’ll see where we are but if you just look at the turnover, it’s great. I’ve got higher rents now and more staff but we’re 30% up on our best trading year in history so far. We’re running away with it. The ratio is far, far superior when you’re in a town centre. We’ve taken all of our old customers but the amount of new ones we’re picking up is incredible.”

ANSWER: Spencer Coe, managing director at ScootaMart, explained how his strategy for moving stores into busier urban areas with higher footfall is already paying off for the company. The retailer is opening new shops consistently but Coe maintains a cautious franchise opening programme.

QUOTE 7: “I think it would be nearly impossible to set up now as a one-man-band. It’s impossible to sell it cheaper than the online guys, who can sell cheaper than even we can get it for, and give free delivery. But the good guys; TGA, Roma, Van Os, wouldn’t stock a shop next door to us, they’re pretty honourable and that’s how it should be. I think that by the end of this year there will be a number of big mobility companies gone to the wall. Absolutely no doubt.”

ANSWER: Martin Bush, managing director at Bush Healthcare, expressed his doubts for new independent businesses to open up in the mobility retail sector. As one of the high street’s first dealers, the firm recently made its first move across the border with new stores in England.

QUOTE 8: “The objective is to open stores that are nothing like anything that people would have experienced in this sort of environment before. We don’t feel like a ‘mobility shop’ needs to feel like you’re on death’s door. Given that we started out with £500 in our back pocket and we built our business in such a small amount of time, then ambitious is what we’re all about. You won’t find two people who are more passionate about the industry and the difference we want to make to it.”

ANSWER: Middletons’ joint boss, Ricky Towler, described how he and business partner, Tom Powell, are determined to roll out a retail concept never-before-seen in the mobility space. The pair secured £4m of funding this year which they plan to use to open around 20 new stores nationwide.

QUOTE 9: “If I was the new director general coming into the BHTA, I would look very carefully at focusing on how we can improve the customer-facing badge and become the TripAdvisor of the industry. How can we get the BHTA to be the TripAdvisor of the industry? For me, that would be my mantra. From my little knowledge of the BHTA, I understand they’ve got a lobbying arm that works very closely with the government around legislation, but for me, I think there’s a lot more that is needed on the trade side.”

ANSWER: Chief executive of Warrington Disability Partnership, Dave Thompson, offered his view on what the BHTA could be doing to improve support for trade members. The trade body’s recently appointed director general departed unexpectedly in November.

QUOTE 10: “In terms of a selection process with dealers, there’s every type of dealer out there in the marketplace that you could go and deal with. But we select them by a criteria and there are some large dealers who we’ve not worked with. There are certain suppliers that will want all the mobility dealers in the UK on the books but we don’t operate in that way. We work with people who are going to deliver a good service, represent our product correctly and keep the end-user happy.”

ANSWER: Kymco’s managing director, Mark Hermolle, speaking about his dealer network strategy. He believes the correct approach is quality over quantity and is cautious about which retail partners the company works with.


0-3: Must do better! Don’t worry, there’s always next year – but we really think you should be logging onto more often!

4-7: Good knowledge! Well done – a credible score! We’re delighted to see you’ve been closely following the highs and lows of the industry this year!

8-10: Take a bow! You really need to get out more! Just kidding, we’re impressed you know the industry so well. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!  

Joe Peskett

The author Joe Peskett

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