Mobility industry ‘needs B&Q or Tesco’ equivalent, says Hampshire dealer

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An independent dealership in Hampshire has reiterated its belief that mobility distributors would be able to negotiate more effectively with suppliers if a ‘mobility retail equivalent of B&Q or Tesco’ existed in the market.

Deborah McCallum, director of Alton-based Out & About Independent Living, offered her industry insight to AMP, outlining that one of the key problems of the mobility industry is that there is ‘no major retail chain’.           

“If we had the Tesco or B&Q equivalent, manufacturers would have to sit up and listen more,” McCallum said. She believes that the presence of a more substantial retailer would mean mobility suppliers would be less able to dictate product trends.

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“There is no Tesco saying this is a just-in-time business so you will have to deliver and you will have to be here at 10am. It’s all very relaxed and until there is someone really large who manufacturers cannot do without it’s not really going to change.”

She concluded: “People like Halfords had a little foray into it. Argos list a few items on their website but it’s just nibbling around the edges.”

At present, multiples like Ableworld, which has around 35 stores, are flying the flag for large-scale retailers. But currently the majority of its sites are franchises.

While many mobility suppliers aim to innovate and breathe youth into their product designs, some industry observers believe that certain innovation trends have tended to be “gimmicky” rather than beneficial.

This perceived problem is a concern for some retailers who feel the next generation of customers who fall into the baby-boomer generation will demand technology-heavy products which offer choice and are aesthetically designed.

McCallum explained: “The current innovation is just not going to be acceptable for the next group coming through. And it’s very sad that the UK isn’t a large-enough market to actually be able to drive innovation.

“If the US market doesn’t want it then the chances are that nothing is going to change. And the only exception to that is Scandinavia, culturally they are more design-conscious and so firms like Topro are producing aesthetic, ergonomic and functional equipment.”

Many suppliers however maintain that their innovations capitalise on new technology and are at the cutting-edge of healthcare.

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Joe Peskett

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