Dealers of all specialities, shapes and sizes across the mobility industry have surprised themselves with how well they have responded to an unassuming entry-level powerchair that came onto the market recently.
Sunrise Medical’s Q100R powerchair, part of its Q-range, launched at the tail end of 2018 and as an affordable, compact, indoor and outdoor powerchair, it would be easy to overlook the product on first inspection.
Soon after its launch however, the featherweight found that it was punching well above its weight and had become one of the most popular powerchair choices for UK distributors as units flew from showrooms.
So how did such a seemingly simple and unassuming powerchair become an overnight sensation on the dealer circuit?
The answer is in the question, says head of sales at Sunrise, Ryan Hirst. When a manufacturer is able to mix performance with quality and simplicity, it is a sure-fire recipe for success.
One of the drawbacks of complex pieces of equipment serving specialist needs is that there are more things that can go wrong with moving parts.
As a stripped down, back-to-basics piece of equipment, the Q100 is far more bulletproof and easy to get to grips with than some of the market’s higher-end products.
Key to the Q100 taking off early on were the intimate events that accompanied the launch. Sunrise’s ‘dealer days’ opened the product up to a lot of smaller retailers who were shown how the chair can expose them to unexplored opportunities.
Hirst explains that a key factor behind the Q100’s popularity with retailers, and in particular smaller outfits, is its ability to bridge the gap between mobility scooter and powerchair.
“There’s a lot of crossover between the Q100 and scooters,” Hirst comments. “For example, on the Motability Scheme it isn’t that far from high-end scooters in terms of price. It’s got a similar range to some of the scooters too.
“If you have a requirement for a scooter now, then there may be a chance that your mobility will deteriorate in the future and so there’s an argument that the Q100 is a bit more future-proof because it’s good outdoors but has also got the manoeuvrability for indoors.
“The overriding success of the Q100 has been because of the cross-over in capability with high-end scooters, which has enabled dealers which haven’t typically sold powerchairs to get involved in the market.”
Referring to its simple, dealer-friendly design, Hirst says the Q100 contains fewer parts than models higher up in the Q-series of Sunrise powerchairs. Everything is easy to access, saving technicians time and hassle. On the service side, feedback from dealers has been positive.
While there were teething problems initially with one batch of castor wheels, the issues have since been resolved and have not returned. Interestingly, even highly specialist, prescriptive dealers have received the Q100 very well.
Speaking to a number of high-end retailers at Naidex, Hirst describes how several named the Q100 as their favourite powerchair in the whole range despite it being an entry-level chair. It has proved a hit with distributors at every end of the scale thanks to its versatility, simplicity and capabilities.
Such has the take-up been from the Q100 that Sunrise has enjoyed a greater breadth of trade clients since launching the device. Hirst notes that although the manufacturer supplies scooters, it is not a scooter-centric company. The Q100 has opened the supplier up to more traditional dealer customers.
He says: “We’re having more conversations with different people because it acts like a bit of a gateway. If you’re a local mobility shop that’s always sold scooters and that’s all you’ve ever known, bringing in the Q100 allows you to get into powerchairs without the complexity of something really high-end.
“And remember, there are higher profit margins in prescriptive chairs than in scooters. It can act as a stepping stone because it gives people a taste for powerchairs. Some dealers have taken up the Q100 and now we’re exploring that next level of training with them to bring them onto higher models in the range.
I honestly think there should be a Q100 in every mobility showroom. If there isn’t then we’re probably not offering end-users the choice they deserve”
“It’s a great opportunity for dealers that aren’t involved in prescriptive powerchairs to get into that profitable side of the market without stepping too far out of their comfort zone or knowledge base.”
Once retailers do become more comfortable with the lower end of Sunrise’s Q-series, there is plenty of ceiling space to move up and deal in more specialist models. While the road to dealing in top-end powerchairs may be long for new or inexperienced dealers, Hirst sees the Q100 as a natural step on that path and the best place to start dabbling in powerchairs.
A technically simple piece of kit means small retailers do not have to dedicate huge amounts of time to the powerchair and can enjoy a new stream of revenue without compromising their traditional incomes.
That is not to say however, that Sunrise has held back on quality. While the Q100 may not have all the whistles and bangs of its larger siblings, it is sturdy and configurable. Hirst concludes that there is “no reason for dealers not to give the product a try”, explaining that Sunrise offers a consignment stock scheme.
He says: “If someone’s on the fence then they should be getting in touch with their area sales manager and they might be able to get some consignment stock in there. I honestly think there should be a Q100 in every mobility showroom. If there isn’t then we’re probably not offering end-users the choice they deserve.”
Moving forward, Sunrise’s main focus in the short-term will be on developing the Q100 and launching the much anticipated Q200. The former will receive additional options by the end of 2019, including a new footrest to decrease the chair’s footprint even further.
Meanwhile, the Q200 is expected to make its entrance later in the year with pre-orders being taken in September. Configured versions of the powerchair will also launch soon after.
For now, the Q100 remains the jewel in Sunrise’s powerchair range and still holds a great deal of potential for dealers who are yet to make the leap into the more complex side of the market.
The entry-level powerchair has proved it cannot be underestimated and plenty of the market’s independent stores and retail chains already regard it as a favourite.
For those who remain outside the Q100 club, perhaps the most attractive thing about the powerchair is its potential to arm retailers with a foundation for powerchair knowledge as more end-users head online for scooters. With the retail market more challenging than ever for physical dealers, perhaps now is the time to consider the jump and help future-proof business.