While some retail sectors are bracing for a potential drop-off in customers post-Brexit, key members of the mobility industry argue that the sector will be more resistant to adversity than other, more vulnerable trades.
Rise Furniture and Mobility’s managing director, Carl Drake, is among a number of dealers who believe the industry’s core customer will continue to make purchases as normal because they are usually buying on a need-to-buy basis.
Many sectors fear a potential rise in costs following the UK’s departure from the EU in March will dent consumer confidence. But for Drake, even if it prices are forced upwards, confidence in the mobility sector will remain buoyant.
He said: “Brexit is a bit like weather. Good, bad or indifferent, it’s going to happen. There are those that pay for British goods and there are those that just want the best or best price, wherever it’s from.
“If they’re buying on price then they’re not bothered where it’s coming from. If the price is going up because of Brexit they’re going to have to pay more for it or they’ll find it somewhere else, whether it’s outside the EU or not.
“Whatever happens, they can’t control it. If prices go up, they go up. They pay more for it, do without, or find an alternative. To them, nothing’s changed.”
Mike Williams, managing director of industry giant Ableworld, has continually urged the mobility trade to be more optimistic where retail is concerned, particularly in regards to Brexit.
He said the industry has got to start believing “the doom mongers are all wrong and we don’t all fall over a cliff-edge on the 30th March”.
“I’m certainly not planning for that to happen,” he said. “We see a very positive 2019, once again continuing to improve our business model, ensuring our 18 years of increased profits, growth and bringing better value-for-money products to the end-user continues.”
Aside from consumer confidence, some business groups have claimed that a no-deal Brexit could mean small companies left to face “massive” new customs costs and tariffs and that disruption at ports could “destroy carefully built supply chains”.
Regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal, some of the market’s major equipment suppliers have indicated that costs – and prices – could increase in line with most other sectors.
Last year, Yorkshire dealer, Parkgate Mobility, introduced a new retail platform in part to ensure all of its suppliers’ products, product codes and up to-date pricing could be seamlessly imported.
Owner, Stephen Holland, said: “This was deemed particularly important as we were regularly having to manually go through the painful process of updating all of our prices made worse by the Brexit scaremongering, the successive drop in the value of the pound on the international market and forever increasing and fluctuating pricing.”
Freerider, which supplies mobility scooters to a large portion of the retail market, said that while Brexit “has been a jolt”, the firm’s strong relationship with its Taiwanese manufacturer means it will be able to negotiate any challenges more smoothly.
Freerider UK’s sales and operations director, Paul Fisher, said that the company was in a “fairly unique” position because it is owned by Freerider Corp’s chairman, Arthur Wang, and stated: “you couldn’t have a closer relationship with your manufacturer as we have”.
“They’re really in tune with the marketplace and that relationship could be different if there was a gulf between us, but it’s not, it’s hand in glove.”
Politicians are currently preparing to vote on amendments to the Prime Minister’s proposed Brexit deal. MPs hope to influence what kind of deal the UK reaches with the EU prior to its departure.