A family-run mobility dealer in Staffordshire up against the likes of Ableworld, Middletons and Easy Living Mobility now has an ambitious new multiple opening on its doorstep – with the same name.
It is worried that the new rival, which has big plans to roll out multiple equipment shops in the vicinity, could have an impact on its reputation as an independent family-run retailer.
Rob Wilcock, who founded a dealer called Love Mobility with his wife just over a year ago, is uneasy about having to soon contend with the emerging multiple dealer also calling itself Love Mobility.
The new-to-market business has listed six key locations in the West Midlands where it wants to open stores immediately before it moves onto the Midlands and North Yorkshire later this year.
Although a representative from the new company allegedly told Wilcock that it will not open near Love Mobility’s two stores, he is concerned that the business’s sphere of influence will stretch so that it clashes with his customer base.
Wilcock’s main worry is that customers and suppliers could become confused by both businesses having the same name and that clients may mistake his existing independent firm as the new firm.
He told AMP that he didn’t want his business to be “left in the shade” by the emerging Love Mobility.
“We’ve had some [suppliers] call us up asking who ‘the other’ Love Mobility is. I think it’s confused a lot of people and I think it’s going to confuse customers. This was my worry right from the start, which is why I asked them not to go with the same name.
“But what’s done is done and I can’t stop them calling themselves what they want to.”
While Wilcock thinks the situation could help drive traffic to his website as more people begin searching for Love Mobility, he is concerned that customers will get confused between the two companies’ offerings.
He said: “Their vision is totally at odds with what we do. I can see what their design is and I’ve been down that route before. But I don’t think these megastores we’re seeing in this industry are necessarily the way forward.
“Once you start getting five, six or seven locations, you’re spreading yourself too thin. I think a lot of multiples are finding this – it’s tough to hire quality staff in this industry and I think that’s where we start to fall down and get bad reputations.
“If someone goes into one of Love Mobility’s stores and they do happen to have a different experience to what they’d get with us, when they go on Facebook and type in Love Mobility, they’re going to come across us.
“If someone’s got a bee in their bonnet they could do a lot of damage to us on social media. By the time you’ve made it clear that it wasn’t our company, other people have read it and shared it. That is my worry but only time will tell.”
Wilcock claimed he spoke with one of Love Mobility’s representatives and asked them not to use the same name but noted that the decision would not be worth taking to court as he does not think anyone would win from the outcome.
He added: “I don’t want to sound ungraceful – it’s business after all. I just don’t want us to be left in the shade as we’ve worked really hard to get where we are.”
Wilcock was formerly part of the management team at Ability Plus and helped set up a number of its stores alongside current managing director Graham Johnson. His new business has been running for over a year and plans to open a new store soon, adding to sites in Wellington and Bishops Castle.
He said that the key to the success of his Love Mobility business is that it focuses on home assessments and a squeaky clean and bespoke approach to customer care, something he believes multiples can find inherently challenging to provide.
His company has industry giant Easy Living Mobility 400 metres away from its Wellington store, but noted the pair co-exist “quite happily”. Operating in Ableworld’s backyard and alongside expanding chain Middletons, Love Mobility has a lot to contend with in the form of multiples.
Wilcock said: “The reason we’ve done so well is because we’re not a chain and because we’re a family company. If you can’t get through to our landline it will bounce to our personal mobile number day and night – we really care and I think that’s the difference.”
Love Mobility – the new business – was incorporated earlier this year and promises to be a “new and exciting retailer”. It is the product of many years of research into the mobility market by a senior team of experienced retailers from both in and outside the sector.
The company says it was born from a desire to break down barriers and stigma around purchasing mobility products. It says it will “provide a greater range and broader service than its competitors and will use significant advertising campaigns to reach the target market”.