Having just merged its showrooms under one new brand, Unique Mobility is rapidly evolving its business so it can serve more areas. We hear from Barry Reeve, product specialist at the South West’s most far-reaching mobility retailer, to understand what was behind its facelift and how it plans to move forward on its new foundation.
What is Unique Mobility’s background in the industry?
We have 17 members of staff between the two branches. With a background in building renovations, we began by installing wetrooms. Other staff have backgrounds with manufacturers such as Invacare and Sunrise Medical as well as national equipment distributors and community equipment services.
What was behind the recent company rebrand?
Often our branches were confused as competitors. We wanted to give more clarity to our end-users as well as not restricting the company geographically. The rebrand also allows us to market the business as a ‘brand’ as opposed to a location-based business.
Unique is less location-specific now. Does this give you a broader scope?
We have already introduced a member of staff, James Morant, who joins us from Quest88. James is now our paediatric specialist representing Unique Kidz, which covers the whole of the South West region. This would not have been possible under the Plymouth Mobility business name.
What kind of feedback have you had from further up the supply chain since the rebrand?
We’ve had a lot of positive feedback, particularly from manufacturers. We are seen as a large industry player when it comes to mobility suppliers, which is why manufacturers such as Permobil and Leckey are using us as their products’ sole distributors throughout the region.
How important is it for mobility brands to stay fresh as the market develops?
It is vital. There is a lot of threat from online companies as well as some manufacturers with large marketing budgets selling direct to consumers. Smaller bricks-and-mortar stores need to stay fresh to keep people interested in what products and services they have to offer.
You recently introduced a new paediatric arm. What is behind this development?
Unique Kidz is the paediatric arm of the business. An opportunity came up with Vida (by Leckey) to become the sole distributor of its products throughout four south western counties. This has since expanded and we cover the whole of the South West. We wanted a member of staff who was experienced within the paediatric sector and comfortable assessing users’ needs. James Morant has around 14 years’ experience with Quest88 supplying trikes and rehabilitation equipment and comes with a whole host of industry knowledge.
What’s the South West like for mobility retail?
The South West can be tough. There is a lot of competition, a lower population and with towns and villages spread far apart, it can be quite challenging logistically.
What is the competition like?
There are a lot of established mobility retailers throughout the South West offering mobility aids. We feel we separate ourselves by thinking outside of the box, offering products that need specialist assessment or installation through knowledgeable members of staff while maintaining high levels of customer service.
How do you stay unique?
Offering the widest range of mobility and rehabilitation products in the South West is where we stay unique. We offer simple daily living aids from cutlery and incontinence through to car adaptations, standing powerchairs, custom powerchair and wheelchair accessories as well as ramp and access solutions. All of these are assessed and installed by ourselves and not outsourced to other companies, allowing us to ensure that everyone involved is fully aware of the individual’s needs.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
Finding the best staff can often be a challenge. We are very particular about who we like to recruit as we like to invest a lot of time into training and maintaining each and every member of staff. Other challenges can be very low pricing on the internet through sellers that never see the customer or assess their needs and do not have engineers available to repair and maintain the customer’s product.
You have two showrooms and three workshops now. What scope is there for expanding?
We have ongoing conversations with suppliers regarding potential supply and maintenance of products throughout the region. We want to offer the best service possible for our end-users so we are very cautious about spreading our time too thinly throughout the region. Our focus would be to offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all customers, case managers and care professionals.
Which market areas present the best opportunities to expand?
Our close large cities would offer the best expansion opportunity. But ensuring our current operations are running smoothly and maintaining high standards is the priority for us at this time.