Age UK’s decision to offload its personal alarm service, Aid-Call, was entirely responsible for a £2.7m decline in net sales in the group’s most recent financial year.
That’s according to the charity’s commercial director, Annette Petchey, who maintained that the sales performance of stairlifts and other products has been “fair in a difficult trading period”.
She said that sales of stairlifts in 2018 were “pretty much on par with previous years”, while sales of bathing and incontinence products are both up.
Earlier this month, Age UK’s annual report for 2017/18 showed the group’s net trading income fell to just over £13m in 2017/18.
The sale of Aid-Call saw total revenues of the group’s mobility division drop to £300,000, because of the Aid-Call sale to AXA PPP healthcare.
During 2017, Age UK Trading CIC worked with Claritas, a third-party provider of Age UK’s hearing aids to address “on-going contractual challenges”. But in June, Age UK terminated the contract.
In spite of the market challenges and the decline in net sales for Age UK’s trading operation, Petchey said independent living aids are a “core part of our portfolio, generating £2.754m net income”.
The charity recently launched the Age Co brand to help promote sales of independent living aids and financial services.
Petchey said: “The new brand offers a significant platform for growth and better clarity for customers.
“The launch of the Age Co brand creates a strong foundation for growth of product sales in this area and we will continue to invest, for example in CRM and marketing, in order to grow sales of independent living products.
“In addition, we are working with partners to develop new ways to access the range of products, and are responding to customer need to drive even better quality, accessibility and value.”
Petchey added that there has been “an array” of challenging issues and market conditions that have affected the markets Age UK Enterprises operates in.
“Significantly, most markets where we operate have become increasingly competitive and, where there is a lack of regulation, such as in the funeral plan and stairlifts market, we have seen unscrupulous practices being adopted,” she said.
“We will continue to offer good products and services at a fair price for older people.
“We will also continue to promote that Age Co brand so that current and prospective customers understand the demarcation between the Age UK charity and our commercial arm, so they are always totally clear who they are purchasing products from and that any surplus is gifted to the charity.”