Ableworld’s new flagship showroom on a retail park in Stafford could be the blueprint for the business’s future shops as its store opening and redevelopment programme gathers pace.
Stafford is one of Ableworld’s largest stores yet and at 5,000 square feet, holds an extensive product range, a specialist equipment area and an in-store scooter test track.
Wide aisles and huge windows give the showroom an open and airy feel and managing director Mike Williams thinks it will likely be the kind of place Ableworld will look to launch in the future.
Williams told AMP that while the store is now the retailer’s largest, it will be the company’s flagship site.
“We’re certainly looking more at retail parks and I think that will be the future of mobility,” he said.
“We’re unashamedly retail in that we have aisles and the way we sell products, for example. That’s how I believe customers want it.”
He believes that a combination of the positioning of the store, the customer flow, the size of the shop floor and competitive pricing will make the store a successful model for other Ableworld sites to follow.
“I’ve always wanted to be in Stafford. For a long time I’ve been looking at sites but I wanted the right one. I’m not saying every store we open will be like this but this style of thing I see more and more.
“We’re already looking at another retail park and we may be opening up on that. I certainly don’t see any problems with coming onto retail parks if the rent is right. I see that as our future more and more, and also the future of the mobility trade.”
Ableworld store manager, Darren Evans, said that the company is looking at the retail park option more and more as opposed to the high street environment.
He said: “The culture of shoppers now is headed more towards retail parks, which is what we’ve tried to do [at Stafford]. Certainly this will be a flagship store which we’ll look at replicating elsewhere.”
Stafford is one of the more competitive towns on the mobility retail scene, with several large multiples and established independents all operating within close proximity.
Williams said: “We always look at our competition but we always believe within reason that there is enough business for all of us.
“If the others look after their customers then they’re not going to suddenly switch to us. In my past trade you could sell a tin of paint cheaper and immediately get the customer. I think in this trade you’ve got to look after your customers and the aftersales so people don’t just switch.”
A report last week claimed that the number of stores on UK high streets are beginning to decline again after they reached a peak last year.
The research, carried out by the Local Data Company, showed that the first three months of 2018 was the point at which there were most shops in Britain’s 650 largest town centres, comprising 192,765 stores.
Since then, numbers have begun to decrease as retail units are turned into homes and offices. Retail experts believe changing shopping habits are partly behind the decline.