In this special report, leading hoist and sling suppliers outline the opportunities to be had for dealerships looking to break into the hoist sector and discuss current trends so that retailers already in the market can stay one step ahead.
While hoists can be an intimidating sector for some dealers to break into, many of those that have taken the leap have found it to be an additional profitable arm to their business. With a bit of investment in training in regards to proper assessment, LOLER testing and correct specification, mobility retailers can take full advantage of what is an exciting and growing market.
Largely, it is down to suppliers to show dealers the opportunities brought by hoists. Most of them also offer slings and a wide range of accessories that can be sold alongside hoist systems, making the area a long-term, viable strategy.
For those mobility retailers looking to enter the market, it’s important to know where the segment is headed and which innovations need to be looked at. Equally, for those already in the midst of hoist trading, keeping your finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest trends is a surefire way of staying ahead of the game. This, however, is easier said than done given that different suppliers often disagree on the products shaping the market.
For Nick Kent, managing director of OpeMed, a leading supplier of hoists and specialist in ceiling track hoists, the sector is moving steadily but surely in one direction. “A key trend shaping this sector is the movement of the market away from floor hoists to ceiling hoists,” argues Kent.
“This is primarily due to the improvement and advancement of the equipment. Ceiling hoists that were once bulky and eating into the space available in a room are now discreet and silent solutions for patient transfer, while the converse is currently true of floor hoists. The positive effect of such a trend is a diversity in hoisting options available, as well as a continued improvement of the hoists themselves,” he says.
In particular, Kent believes that four-function hoists are becoming more common because they can easily drive someone around. Modern ones are much easier to push or pull and Kent claims a person can be moved in a sling with just one finger, making the solutions popular with OTs and carers.
It is indeed true that ceiling hoists are becoming smaller, quieter and less obtrusive. They can now be hidden away in cupboards and the tracks themselves can be painted over or set within a roof, if the installation allows. What’s more, as designs become more universal, different slings can be used with different hoists, just as many hoists can be used on the same track, meaning the cost for both the end-user and the installer can be reduced.
Kent feels that even a year ago, some manufacturers were still holding onto the assumed fact that you could never use one manufacturer’s sling with someone else’s hoist. But it is now widely known that different brands can be used alongside one another. Companies will often provide a list of approved brands and manufacturers so dealers and specifiers don’t have to ‘mix and match’ blindly, which could present a significant risk to the end-user and carer.
While it is clear that ceiling track hoists are on the up, not everyone in the industry would agree that the floor hoist is dead. Dealers can still make good business on floor hoists and many would argue that they can be just as popular as ceiling hoists. Companies like Ardoo and Ergolet, which supply portable floor hoists remain adamant that the opportunities presented by their products are rich. This is in part because of trends not just in the mobility sector, but in the lifestyles of disabled people around the world.
It’s safe to say that virtually everyone in the industry agrees that ceiling hoists are a great piece of kit and can offer customers an excellent home transfer solution. However, as with any product, they do have their limitations. For one, until every building a disabled person wishes to visit is fitted with a ceiling track, then a ceiling hoist cannot be used in every situation. While light and quality portable ceiling hoists do exist, without a ceiling track in a building they are void. And with disabled people increasingly travelling around, especially abroad, the need for a portable solution is an increasing trend.
While the debate on floor and ceiling hoists rages, sling suppliers are able to offer dealers solutions regardless of which hoist solutions they choose to stock. Dolphin is a specialist supplier of hoist and lifting systems and recently became the UK distributor for Handi-Move products.
Director, Christian Dunnage, explains the products his company provides: “We offer a comprehensive range of innovative and often unique lifting products. As UK distributors for Handi-Move International we have unique hoisting solutions for safe self-hoisting using the Surehands body support system. The body support system is a stainless steel device that automatically grips the user’s upper body by using the weight of the person’s legs in the patented thigh supports. It is a safe, hygienic and easy-to-clean method of quickly transferring independently or with assistance.”
Dunnage outlines how the body support is also ideal for assisted transfers especially when used to enter a pool or bath and for using the toilet. He claims it is much faster and easier to fit than a normal sling and because it is made of stainless steel and does not have any moisture absorbing materials, it is safer and more hygienic.
It seems that hoist and sling suppliers more often than not disagree when it comes to which products will perform best for dealers. And the array of products available combined with the different views on market trends can make matters all the more confusing for a retailer looking to break into the sector. But thankfully, dealers don’t have to choose a product path to go down and stay on. Given that end-users all have different requirements and tastes it is important to offer a range of solutions, including portable floor hoists which are an excellent option when a ceiling track hoist is not a viable system.
Further to that, now that manufacturers have pulled down the veil that only their brand of slings will work with their brand of hoists, dealers and customers have been offered more choice. There has never been a better time for mobility retailers to enter the hoist and support segment, and those taking the leap now can look forward to a bright future.