To kick start a new year and a new decade, five mobility retail leaders make their predictions about what the next 12 months may hold for dealers in the sector.

Mike Williams, Managing Director of Ableworld

Mike Williams Ableworld H_S

“This is an interesting one, especially needing the information two days before the General Election!

“However, the business we are in will expand rapidly whatever happens. The same is true of the competition too!

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“Let’s look at the positive side and hope we don’t have another hung Parliament along with a relatively “clean break” from the shackles of the E.U. Hopefully the pound will reverse as the country’s confidence grows.

“Some retailers will fail, unfortunately, as others get larger and some will amalgamate as has happened in other industries – ending up with three, possibly four, nationwide retailers. Smaller companies that survive will concentrate on the “specialist” side of the business.

“More mobility retailers will be “out of town”, either on retail parks or secondary positions towards the retail parks, selling much lighter and improved products over time. The internet will always be there and grow with the smaller aids, although retailers hopefully will realise that for the larger products that need to be assessed, these are not ethical to sell online, along with not being viable.

“One thing is for sure though, the retail sector will carry on growing rapidly.”

Daniel Griffiths, Managing Director of Easy Living Mobility

Daniel Griffiths Easy Living Mobility H_S

“I hope everyone has had a fantastic Christmas and enjoyed time with family and friends alike.

“Who really knows what’s around the next corner or what’s going happen in 2020? As business owners, we make decisions to influence changes within our businesses to benefit consumers and this sits as a high priority in our business strategy.

“I see this is also starting to be applied more and more by manufacturers and there is much more of a focus on our consumers and their needs than ever before, which is fantastic news as they deserve the very best.

“Competition is also stronger than ever and in recent times, there have been many store closures. At the same time, there are also many of the more developed businesses striving to open more stores – ourselves included.

“I know this is good for the industry as from a competitive perspective, it drives us to be constantly striving for excellence and this, as in any industry, brings greater benefits to all consumers. This is what I’m doing, driving our business forward every day and as I write this in December 2019, part of me cannot wait to get started on all the exciting plans myself and my team have set out for 2020.

“We wish everyone a “Happy New Year” and hopefully a prosperous one for all!”

John Payne, Managing Director of Kent Mobility

John Payne Kent Mobility H_S

“What does 2020 hold for the retail sector? A good question, if we only we had a crystal ball!

“Looking back, 2019 was a lot better trading year than 2018 which was to be excepted after the revamp our retail shop and building the assessment centre.

“Looking forward, we all have a lot of unknowns. I am not sure how Brexit, if it happens, will affect us or what the new government will do. The new MDR requirements which come into force in May 2020 will certainly affect importers and distributors.

“As dealers, we need to be on a level playing field on prices with the NHS contractors when the PWBs are rolled out. If this happens, it will be a busy year. What we can offer in the retail sector is speed of assessments, coupled with quick delivery and repairs. I also think we as retail sector do not blow our own trumpet enough about the fact that we can offer a range of products with expert advice to give the customer solutions that really meet their requirements.

“Saying this, we need good back-up from our suppliers with an excellent after-sales service; over the past year, there has been a steady decline in the speed that some importers/manufactures supply spares accurately and quickly. It seems to me once the box is sold to us the after-sales service is put on the back burner, which, in my view, this is been very short-sighted. I wonder if other dealers are having the same problems?

“But it’s not all doom and gloom and the dealers that can keep their eye on the ball and adapt will succeed.”

Tom Powell, Director of Middletons

Tom Powell Middletons H_S

“We’ve noticed that our customers are worried about Brexit. People have said they’re concerned about the rising cost of living so they have been putting off their purchases and only buying mobility products when absolutely necessary. Going into 2020, I think the mobility sector might see tougher trading until there is more political certainty.

“In terms of competition and buyer behaviour, I think the middle ground of the market is being squeezed: retailers will need to be either led by price or led by providing the best customer experience possible and I would expect companies that continue to be mediocre on both will not do so well.

“There will always be demand in the mobility market for companies who are offering high value, high-quality items with exceptional customer service and I think customer expectation for a unique and superior purchasing experience will increase next year. Brands catering for this will do well in 2020.

“I think that 2020 will be the year of the lightweight mobility scooter as well. The industry will focus on innovating products that are easier to use, handle and transport.”

Richard Holland-Oakes, Managing Director of Recare

Richard Holland Oakes Recare H_S

“Like many, we have been waiting for the Brexit date to be confirmed and I feel that this has been steering the industry in the direction of ambiguity.

“For 2020, we will widen our product provisions and knowledge to develop Recare as a rehabilitation company, replacing the well-known term of ‘dealer’.

“Catering to the higher end of the rehabilitation industry is very time-consuming, however, clients want to purchase the products that maximise their capabilities and mobility. These products are provided in such a specialist sector that they are unable to access these services online, minimising price-led internet competition.

“Our plan for 2020 will be to do much of the same as 2019, which saw us grow by at least 30 per cent on the previous year, but with more of a direction into product provision focus.

“I also think Personal Wheelchair Budgets will come more into play, offering clients a choice to purchase the products that are most suitable for their needs as opposed to what the NHS is authorised to supply.

“By providing this freedom, it ensures clients receive the best private purchase service rather than dealing with a contracted integrated NHS provider without enabling complete market choice.”

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