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Internet retailers fail to oust physical mobility dealers from scooter arena

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With internet sellers increasingly churning out high volume sales at keen prices, some mobility retailers are turning away from scooters and looking at more specialist product areas which require client assessment.

But the days of mobility scooters being sold in showrooms are far from over, according to some of the largest equipment manufacturers.  

Daniel Thaxter, Drive DeVilbiss’ product manager, thinks that showrooms offer users an experience that makes it difficult for online retailers to compete with where scooters are concerned.

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He says shops offer somewhere local to visit and mean products can even be brought to a user’s home if they are unable to access the showroom.

“That, ultimately, allows the customer to make the best purchasing decision on a product that most suitably services their requirements by physically trying it out first-hand. They are therefore less exposed to purchasing the wrong product which could result in a stressful experience.”

Such is Drive’s confidence in physical stores that it has geared some of its products to specifically be sold in-store.

This initiative includes some scooters, clearly showing that the company believes the products still have a place in showrooms. Other suppliers are evidently quite sure that scooters cannot be solely sold online.

Martin Fisher, managing director at Pro Rider, says that a scooter is not just a simple purchase and is often considered as a significant investment.

“Whilst websites can communicate the key specs and features of a scooter, customers often won’t really know whether it’s the right model for them until they can see it in person.

“Showrooms give customers the opportunity to really get a feel for the scooter, try it out, and make sure that it offers them all of the comfort and usability.”

Meanwhile, Electric Mobility’s managing director, Jonathan Hearth, states that the company sells around 80,000 units a year, with a sizeable chunk going through mobility shops.

He says that every scooter user is a potential opportunity for other mobility products, meaning the equipment works well when sold in-store alongside other items.

Hearth adds: “Motability is an important part of many dealers businesses, and although often maligned, represents a really good additional revenue stream to many dealers and one that can’t be matched online.”

He makes a valid point about Motability and any dealer with an account will know that scooters are there to stay on shop floors associated with the hire scheme.

Likewise, Pride Mobility’s marketing manager, Theo Sawford, has complete confidence in scooters’ future in bricks-and-mortar stores, stating that they will “always have a place” in physical shops.

“We find that our dealers mention that the end-user likes to know as much as they can about the product before they make a purchasing decision. Although, there is room in the market for both platforms and really it is down to the retailer to work out which platform, if not both, is best for them individually.”

Daniel Stone, TGA’s managing director, agrees that many scooter customers appreciate the service physical dealers can offer them. He says that ensuring the right scooter is supplied to the right person is “vital”.

“Only through an assessment of personal needs, test drives or face-to-face demonstrations, can a customer be sure that the scooter they purchase will maximise independence.

“This is why showrooms are essential for the industry, not just for scooters, but all assistive devices so that customers can test, trial and compare products. Buying direct online may not provide such a detailed and appropriate route to purchase.”

According to the industry’s top manufacturers, scooters will always have a place in showrooms. Most dealers do not need the value of an in-store experience explained to them, but it is certainly comforting to know that suppliers still hold physical channels in high regard.

Many so called ‘box shifters’ will rely on a high volume sales of inexpensive items, however, this is often not possible on high ticket items and certainly on equipment like scooters.

Such products require presales and aftersales support which can seldom be provided by online only sellers.

It is probably safe to say therefore, that although they might be slightly less profitable nowadays, mobility scooters are there to stay in showrooms and will continue to form the backbone of many physical dealers for years to come.

Tags : Drive DeVilbissOnline retailpride mobilitypro riderTGA Mobility
Joe Peskett

The author Joe Peskett

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