As life begins to see some normality again after lockdown, AMP caught up with Ben Gretzer, director at Orange Badge Mobility, to find out how the retail operation there is adapting again to meet the needs of being COVID secure while providing a vital service for customers who have been under lockdown restrictions for months and are in need of new mobility and living aid products.
First of all how have things been for you throughout lockdown, I know you guys have stayed open and carried on serving the customers that you?
Yeah, it’s been a challenging few months I think for everyone, especially our customers that have been locked down and shielding and some continue to be. It has been important, particularly in our service, that we’ve been there for the customers, helping them as and when they’ve needed us to maintain an active lifestyle especially around the home. I think people that struggle doing the daily routines indoors, this has highlighted things even more and we needed to be there for them that little bit extra.
Did you stay open more from a service and maintenance point of view as opposed to sales of product?
Yes, absolutely. The most important thing for us has been maintaining the equipment that our customers rely on every day, whether they get a puncture in the scooter where they’ve been going down to the supermarket at 10 o’clock to get their shopping or a stairlift breaks down or just general bathing, we’ve needed to make sure we’ve been there offering emergency services and 24-hour call outs for products in the field.
You mentioned stair lifts there and I know you recently won a regional award from Bruno. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Yes, we received an award through the post for obvious reasons at the moment, it’s a really nice glass trophy and it came with a really lovely letter from Bruno, thanking us for our continued efforts especially through COVID-19. It’s a regional award for reach out to dealerships’ service and expertise really so we’re really really proud and I think that’s a credit to the stairlift division that I have here. The guys and the ladies work so hard daily to strive to give them a really good service for our customers.
How long have you worked with those guys at Bruno, is it a long-standing relationship that you’ve had and how does it work?
We’ve been a Bruno dealer for many years. We are a dealer of many stairlifts and Bruno is a particular one. It’s a really good product company, Bruno themselves are really accommodating to us because we can only be as good to our customers as the manufacturers that support us from there end so as a whole it’s a great team effort .
You mention the team and the stairlift division specifically, how does Orange Badge work operationally?
We have a large showroom facility in East Sussex that about 8,000 feet of products where people can come and try different equipment from scooters and stairlifts to beds and chairs and bathing products. We haven’t seen as many visitors in the last couple of months it’s mainly been through relatives contacting us on behalf of their mother and father to go out and maintain and deliver products that aid them in daily living.
The daily running of the business has been more challenging because you we’ve made and introduced strict measures here for benefit of clients and their wellbeing so you we use the PPE equipment and follow the advice given by the Government to ensure that our customer safety is paramount.
Have you seen an uptake in customer interest since all retail could reopen in the UK?
Yes it’s been considerably different this week, the phones and even visitors have been feeling confident enough to come in and talk to us still with the necessary measures in place so they feel comfortable but I think customers really want to get back to some normality and start to maybe implement some mobility solutions that they may have delayed in last few weeks and months due to COVID-19.
Having a larger showroom will surely help drive up that confidence for customers knowing the right protection is in place too.
I agree, I mean it definitely does help when you are a larger deal like ourselves that you do have the space to allow clients to browse and can advise them from a safe distance and really have a very large selection all in one place for them to come and browse and hopefully come up with the right solutions for them.
How are you working to clean products to ensure they are safe for the next customers to come in and test and use?
We have a routine here that every piece of equipment is cleaned daily and that’s not just equipment, it goes even as far as the facilities relating to even door handles, everything is cleaned after every single customer enters our building and is done so throughout the day.
With regards to bedding and chairs we have plastic on the bedding and the mattresses, we have signage throughout the showroom which doesn’t allow customers just get on, they have to wait for a member of staff to assist them so we know what products they’re using so that we can obviously clean them down and we’re very very heavy on that. Every single piece of apparatus is cleaned and it is time consuming but it is absolutely necessary.
How have staff been managed throughout the lockdown? Was the Furlough scheme used?
We furloughed a percentage because of the downturn caused by the COVID crisis but they’re reintroduced, we’ve got a full operation now. We also took it upon ourselves that any members of staff that may have had family members that may be high risk, to be in their best interest to make sure they weren’t coming in but placing their safety as paramount as well, so not a business side but from a personal side for staff because it was important to put in those types of measures.
So moving forward now, how do you see things progressing?
I think the more the government starts to release our clients and the more people get confident and feel that we are starting to deal with the COVID situation, on a daily basis we are seeing an increase in customers in-store and via telephone then I can only, from the experience I’ve had in just a few days this week, noticeably the increasing levels in customers coming.
I can see it coming back more than before because our customers have a real need and they want to come to trusted providers like us and I can only see that getting better for us.
Are there any particular products you’ve seen an immediate interest in?
We’ve seen a lot of riser recliner chairs, indoor products and things because where people have been locked down, it’s highlighted getting out of a chair, getting up the stairs or getting into the bath. So, the home living aids, the larger aids for bath lifts and things have been quite consistent for us.
Scooters have been noticeably quieter because of the lockdown but we have started to see some enquiries and some sales on those and I’m feeling more customers will be keen to start enjoying what is left of the summer.
Finally, how have supply chains worked?
Some suppliers have been exceptionally helpful, people like Electric Mobility and One Rehab have gone above and beyond being helpful. Other suppliers have maybe been in a slightly different situation so have had to close things down so some things have been difficult to access, especially bespoke products which is a difficult one if we are working and they can’t deliver the goods so that has been slower but we are now starting to see the industry back and hopefully see supply chains improving and getting the product out there smoothly.