Mountain Trike, a start-up mobility company based in Cheshire, has outlined a strategy to sign up more retailers in the UK and global markets as part of its plan to bring its off-road wheelchair to more end-users.
The company was founded in 2011 but only struck its first UK distribution deal in June this year with a firm in Exeter and now it plans to target a wider network of major and specialist retailers in the UK and abroad.
Managing director Tim Morgan told AMP that when the company first launched it made the decision to sell directly to the end-user. That allowed the firm first-hand contact with customers who could provide feedback and help to make improvements along the way.
“Selling direct at the start was a really good decision and it also meant that we could make the Trike a bit more affordable by cutting out some of the mark-up that you’d traditionally see between manufacturer, distributor and dealer.”
But as the products have become more established, Mountain Trike has discovered that it needs to find more ways of reaching people across the country.
Mountain Trike’s dealer strategy has made a strong start and in addition to its partner in Exeter now has a deal with Northern Ireland’s John Preston Healthcare, which is able to act as a portal to some of the UK’s harder-to-reach areas. For Morgan, well-established and experienced companies are particularly well-suited to selling Mountain Trike products.
He said: “We’re always keen to expand into other areas of the country where we don’t have good coverage, just because it makes it so much easier for people and allows us to make use of all the expertise that’s out there and the dealers that are pioneering innovative or active mobility products.
“Internationally, there’s such huge potential. The US is such a vast market and although there’s quite a division of wealth there are a lot of people who do have disposable income. We’re really keen to sign up more global and UK dealers and just expand further.”
Most recently, Mountain Trike struck a deal with New Zealand-based Total Rehab Plus, which is the company’s latest international stockist.
“The Mountain Trike is an all-terrain wheelchair that is more akin to a mountain bike rather than a traditional wheelchair. It’s all about getting people out into the countryside, giving them more freedom and independence to get out and explore and get to places that they couldn’t in a standard wheelchair. The countries that we found are most suited to that are the ones with amazing countryside like Canada, the US and of course New Zealand.”
The company already has dealers in a number of countries, albeit a thin network. It has two in the US – one in Chicago and one in Colorado – which are responsible for a number of different states. Ideally, Morgan said he would want a dealer in every state in the US but as a small business admits it is quite challenging to set up that kind of network and says growth will have to come more gradually and organically.
Any business serving dealers abroad places themselves at risk of vulnerable and stretched supply lines. But for a six-person start-up assembling each product by hand and in-house, observers might think managing logistics would be a frustratingly complex task.
But Morgan insists the prototyping, testing and build quality has meant that warranty claims have been far and few between. Because the firm begun trading on a small scale it has been able to tweak designs and re-source parts flexibly over the years meaning potential problems have been gradually ironed out.
Morgan added: “And the great thing about the Mountain Trike is because it’s all made from mountain bike parts it can be serviced in any bike shop. So someone can go to any bike shop and have it serviced and if it’s something a bit unusual for the bike shop then they can contact me directly and I can send instructions over.”