The ‘Independent Retailers’ category recognises members of the mobility community who are often called upon to be the most innovative and hardworking individuals, in what is an undeniably tough sector for independents.
The category is sponsored by Drive DeVilbiss, which has unshakable confidence in the market’s smaller independent firms and is on a mission to level the playing field for its standalone partners.
The supplier has taken it upon itself to support the companies it believes still form the backbone of the industry and is redoubling its support for independent bricks-and-mortar retailers.
Recently, Drive introduced a next day delivery scheme alongside a special, comprehensive product catalogue designed specifically to encourage end-users to purchase in-store. For more info visit www.drivedevilbiss.co.uk or call 0845 0600 333.
Carl Drake, Owner, Rise Furniture and Mobility
Carl Drake’s career spans three decades across the mobility sector; from boardroom and showroom to manufacturing and marketing. Until 2017, he led one of the UK’s largest mobility companies before deciding to launch his own independent retail business in Harrogate.
Rise Furniture and Mobility rapidly won attention and a loyal customer base from Aberdeen all the way to Brighton and beyond. Since launching, Carl’s modern approach to mobility aids and showroom design along with his customer ethos has helped to build an award-winning brand which scooped six accolades in 2018 and five in 2019 so far, including being recognised as the UK’s best retail business in last year’s BNB Awards.
No other mobility dealer boasts a national retail award in its first year of trading in competition against established brands and household names. Carl describes the business’s growth as ‘meteoric’ and the firm has gained recognition from peers in the healthcare industry, with the team often giving presentations and advice to professionals.
Viewed as one of the industry’s most forward-thinking mobility retailers, featuring regularly in trade and regional press, Carl has aimed to use Rise Furniture and Mobility as a platform to ‘bring mobility out from the shadows and into mainstream cognisance’.
Justina Nurse, Director, Stuart Mobility
When it comes to independent mobility retail models, Derby-based Stuart Mobility is exemplary in its approach to customer service. Its trading principles have helped it to secure a strong stake in the regional market, which it has managed to expand in recent months.
Key to its growth is co-director, Justina Nurse, who is tasked with taking care of administration, including everything from accounts and customer database all the way to marketing and promotion and liaising with manufacturers.
As the face of Stuart Mobility’s showroom, Justina is on the frontline of the business’s sales and customer care and is respected within the dealer for her ability to advise clients on the phone and in person. Despite having no previous retail experience, Justina knew clearly what she wanted the business to stand for and has been able to use her skills to help Stuart Mobility market itself successfully in the last 12 months, pulling in new customers.
In an industry that often struggles to deliver a good retail experience, Justina is determined to ensure Stuart Mobility sits above competition. She has used the experience gained on the shop floor to deliver excellent levels of customer satisfaction and help the firm combine technology with traditional family values.
Mhairi McCallum, Mobility Consultant, Albion Mobility Ltd
And considering word-of-mouth is arguably any retailer’s most powerful marketing tool, she is helping Albion to increase its coverage and attract more customers. One client says that Mhairi was able to see exactly what they needed and did not want them to settle for anything that was not perfect for their needs.
It is this attitude to each individual customer that has helped Albion to move from strength to strength in recent months and become one of the go-to Motability dealers in Scotland. Ensuring the dealer has been able to cater for customers with a host of different needs, Mhairi maintains a ‘can-do’ attitude and has even been able to look after clients, communicating in Makaton, making herself an invaluable member to the team. Specialising in powered products, Mhairi has increasingly been making in-roads into the sports side of mobility, helping Albion to add another string to its bow.
Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director, TPG DisableAids
Most professionals in the mobility sector are all too familiar with the struggles of attracting young blood and independent firms in particular often fear for their future. Alastair Gibbs however, who leads TPG DisableAids, is one of just a handful of retail bosses who are actively injecting their businesses with youth to ensure sustainability.
While experience is an important and valued asset for any would-be mobility assistant, Alastair favours the apprentice route rather than poaching from rival dealers. In the last year he has expanded on his policy of bringing on at least two apprentices each year to ensure longevity and vigour.
Despite being a family-run business, it is clear Alastair is taking no chances when it comes to the sustainability of TPG and his insistence on ‘homegrown’ staff has helped to tailor his team so that each member is consistent with in-house principles and processes.
In recent months, Alastair has encouraged all employees, from managerial through to assistants, to develop and secure NVQs and qualifications. Few bosses have invested as much in staff in the last year as Alastair has and his ethos of arming team members with the skills to cope without him is certainly a unique one in the retail trade.
Emma Dobson, Occupational Therapist, Kent Mobility
Just a handful of the top mobility firms can boast an in-house occupational therapist. Emma Dobson has returned to join Kent Mobility after more than 15 years of working with the business previously. Her role now is more important than ever and her enviable expertise and ability to offer thorough clinical assessments has allowed Kent Mobility to gain an edge over regional competition.
In a market where independent distributors absolutely need a differentiator, Emma presents the perfect solution. She works with managing director John Payne to advise him on the client’s requirements so he can build the appropriate equipment.
The successful system has meant that recently more and more adults and children with complex needs have been coming to Kent Mobility for its services. What’s more, it has just launched a new on-site clinical assessment centre, which will be the perfect environment for Emma to ply her trade.
Her ability to carry out home visits, offer independent advice and write reports needed for funding makes Emma an invaluable asset for the dealer and its clients. This year in particular she has come into her own, helping Kent Mobility to face up to an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Peter Norfolk, Director and Founder, EPC Wheelchairs Ltd
Peter Norfolk launched EPC 30 years ago this year. His aim as a young wheelchair user himself was to source and supply good quality, lighter, and more active mobility solutions than those that were available at the time.
Over the years he has inspired many customers and his team of staff with his unshakeable attitude of refusing to let the lack of mobility stop him living life to the full. Peter has not only built a sound business but he also blazed a trail as a highly accomplished and successful athlete, culminating in leading the GB team into the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
Since retiring from sport, Peter has re-focused his attention on the business of refreshing EPC to reflect modern day clients’ expectations and introducing innovative products and services. The last 12 months have been particularly tough as there has been a large amount of change and Peter and his family have had major health setbacks to battle.
Nevertheless, the business has strengthened and evolved into ‘EPC Wheelchairs’, aiming to continue enabling with its two stores. This would not have been possible without the sustained vision and drive of Peter, who his colleagues say stands out as an example to all for what can be achieved despite adversity.
Andy King, Technical Manager, Brigg Mobility
Brigg Mobility only launched into the retail space at the end of last year but it has already made waves in the local area and forged a loyal customer base locally. To launch successfully, it was absolutely vital for Brigg to be able to offer all the aftersales back-up and support customers would expect from an established distributor.
Andy King has been integral in the launch of the dealer’s newly-formed service division and the firm’s development so far. Forming strong relationships with national equipment suppliers and investing his own personal time to help grow the brand, Andy has played a key part in building Brigg’s initial foundation.
Reputation is more important in the mobility industry than many others and without a shining one then businesses are unlikely to survive long. Fortunately for Brigg, Andy’s dedication to the role has helped it to take the challenges of starting a new mobility business in its stride, especially on the technical side of things.
He will also soon be creating a new local initiative where he will hold workshops for residents to help rehabilitate after injury and illness. The dealer’s bosses say that Brigg Mobility would not have grown at the rate it has without Andy’s valued contribution and creativity.