The beginning of 2020 marks the beginning of some significant changes taking place in the mobility and independent living market.

The future trade relationship with the EU after Brexit, a new government promising to revolutionise health and social care, big Medical Device Regulations changes coming into play and the increased rollout of personal wheelchair budgets are just some of the major topics facing suppliers in the industry.

In such a shifting industry, predicting what will happen next week, let alone in the next 12 months, is difficult enough.

Undeterred, nine experts from different segments of the mobility, access and independent living market give their forecasts for what 2020 may hold for the industry.

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Bathing and toileting market

Robin Tuffley, Marketing Manager of Closomat

Robin Tuffley Closomat

“The toilet: it’s something we ALL need, regardless of our mobility but is often overlooked as a revenue stream. The basics – grab rails, seats, commode frames – are covered but what about the actual fixture itself? What about diversifying into selling wash & dry toilets themselves?

“The percentage margin is less than many conventional product lines but the £ contribution to the bottom line is strong. The product itself does not require any stockholding commitment, the manufacturer, if reputable, will carry out all the ‘hard work’ in terms of site survey, installation etc.

“Manufacturers are evolving the offering, reflecting the trend towards independent living aids that do not look institutional. Latest designs are stylish and aspirational. Have one on a video loop in the shop window, on display, or a working model in the showroom, and I guarantee you will have a tool to engage the customer. Once engaged, that’s half the battle towards converting the sale.

“Depending on the manufacturer, the opportunity goes beyond the initial product sale. As the customer’s needs change with time, accessories can be added, giving continuing opportunity for sales, profit and added value.”

Footwear market

Andrew Peirce, Managing Director of Cosyfeet

Andrew Peirce Cosyfeet

“Uncertainty surrounding Brexit is set to continue with no quick resolution in sight, whichever party holds power. With market conditions likely to remain difficult, businesses that will prosper are those which command loyalty, provide great customer service, offer a quality product and have a discernible point of difference.

“The footwear market experienced a tough 2019 with many brands regularly on promotion as they fought for turnover. The high street has been especially difficult but the more established online and home shopping companies have not been immune from tough trading.

“Expect further closures of businesses and shops, with existing brands knocking on the door of mobility stores as they seek new wholesale opportunities outside typical shoe shop channels.

“There remains a great opportunity. Ensure your product has a clear focus and is not merely an alternative to many others. Make sure it is available when wanted. Present it attractively and clearly communicate its benefits for the consumer. Understand your customer; make purchasing and returns simple and pleasurable. Businesses doing this effectively can thrive in 2020 and be well placed when better economic conditions return.”

Homelift market

Gino Farruggio, Trade Sales Director of Stiltz Homelifts

Stiltz Gino

“The contemporary homelift sector will continue to grow at a healthy rate despite challenging economic conditions and ongoing Brexit uncertainty.

“This expansion will be driven by consumers seeking attractive solutions that deliver safety, value and future-proofing. Traditional through-floor lifts and stairlifts could well become less appealing as more people demand products which complement, rather than detract from, their home’s styling while at the same time, enhancing their well-being. When faced with alternatives such as costly building conversions, relocation or even residential care, more consumers will choose a trustworthy homelift for continued upstairs access.

“Traditional through-floor lift manufacturers may introduce product developments in 2020 and beyond, however, our progressive homelift R&D programme will continue to define the sector’s thought leadership. Equally, our assessment-led services will be furthered to meet the ever-increasing expectations of customers and to support healthcare professionals.

“From a trade perspective, regionalised opportunities for dealers are equally as buoyant. Stiltz Premier Partners and Affiliate Partners have the opportunity to leverage our national brand strength with a view to maximising growth and enhancing their reputation. We believe true customer-centric support will be the only way to ensure product appropriateness.”

Insurance market

John Traynor, Head of Business Partnerships for Fish Insurance

John Traynor Fish Insurance

“One of the main changes we expect to see as we go into 2020 is the market continuing to mirror the rest of the retail sector by shifting towards online trading.  Competition is increasing across the whole mobility sector, and we don’t expect this to change.

“As more and more companies move online, consumers will be further driven by price. It’s now the responsibility of retailers to make their product really stand out in a crowded market, providing great benefits at great value.

“The other big shift we’re expecting to see are changes in regulation. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is currently undertaking a review of the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. As a company that tailors its insurance policies to reflect the needs of people with disabilities and pre-existing medical conditions, Fish Insurance welcomes this activity.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to develop fit-for-purpose products at competitive prices to ensure we can carry on protecting this often-vulnerable customer base.”

Moving and handling market

Curtis Jordan, UK Marketing Manager of Joerns Healthcare

Curtis Jordan Joerns Healthcare

“Like most areas of the mobility market, the moving and handling sector has become a fiercely competitive place and being a nimble operator is essential to long-term prosperity.

“Price compression appears to have reached a relative base level. Consequentially, premium features and innovations will continue to make way in favour of more cost-effective solutions that satisfy core handling requirements.

“It’s likely we’ll see further acquisitions by larger organisations as a vehicle to quickly grow sales and access new markets. With such an extensive and comparable product choice in this segment, organic growth can prove a real challenge to achieve, especially given the aforementioned price points.

“I expect training provision to be a key area of growth and prominence as it continues to be a valuable tool in driving competence and compliance. Single-handed care will also become a more prevalent approach, given it enables organisational efficiencies outside of product procurement.

“I’d like to wish everybody well for the new year – I’m sure 2020 will be an interesting year, regardless of what it brings!”

Power add-on market

Nathan Milgate, Director of Triride UK

Nathan Milgate Triride

“The power add-on market is the fastest growing market in our sector which is why at Triride we provide a specialist focus for add-on power products.

“In 2019, we have already seen a growing demand for our products across a wide range of end-users with varying physical requirements. There is a much more accepting approach to using a power add-on vs a powered wheelchair among those who don’t have specialist seating requirements. Personal Wheelchair Budgets roll out may have an impact here but we will need to see how open to alternative products the CCGs and Wheelchair Services will be.

“With growing user numbers, there will need to be new innovations in function and performance to keep up with end-user requirements. Triride is constantly evolving the product application with its end-user testers to improve function and all manufacturers will need to follow suit.

“Where there is demand, there will be competition. For sure, there will be more additions to this sector from different manufacturers next year – those with a quality functioning product and end-user focus I think will be the winners here.”

Powered mobility market

Tim Mills, Head of Business for Motion Healthcare

Tim Mills Motion Healthcare

“For Motion Healthcare, the next 12 months brings four more innovative products and our continued growth, which I think reflects the rest of the industry.

“I think it’s the smaller, more innovative suppliers that are continuing to eat into the larger suppliers’ market share as they struggle to provide really innovative products and seem to be concentrating more on the standard products that provide them with the volume they are used to.

“The larger retailers seem to be growing more and more and I think this is also helping some of the smaller retailers operating in the same locations as it seems to be bringing more customers into the area who are looking for mobility products.

“Suppliers like us that are able to provide smaller retailers with innovative products but at a cost price so they can remain competitive and retain good margin against similar products that larger retailers are selling will become increasingly important going forward. It is another reason why I think Motion and other smaller suppliers will continue to grow.”

Stairlift market

Paul Stockdill, UK Sales and Marketing Director of Handicare

Paul Stockdill Handicare

“Competition in the UK stairlift market is fierce but we expect to see continued growth in both the market and our market share in 2020.

“Customers’ expectations will continue to rise in relation to products and services regardless of whether dealers are working with local authorities or selling direct so it will be essential for manufacturers to work with trade partners to safeguard both their reputation and the reputation of the equipment.

“Working closely with dealers and helping to support their business will be extremely important in 2020 as competition increases so finding new ways to collaborate with trade partners will be vital, particularly in regards to product development.

“Using partners’ market knowledge and expertise to help direct R&D investment will bring new innovations and help manufacturers distinguish themselves in the crowded marketplace. Our 1100 stairlift is evidence of this, having been developed and tailored around the feedback and field trials ran with our retail partners.

“Loyalty initiatives will also continue to be a great way to provide enhanced support and we are confident our Dealer Programme and Companion’s Accredited Partner scheme will continue to grow in popularity.”

Wheelchair market

Mark Duffield, Managing Director of Karma Mobility

Mark Karma Mobility

“As we enter 2020, I think the wheelchair market will continue to evolve and as it develops customers will consider not just the price of a product but also put more consideration into factors such as design and build quality and the overall look of the product.

“In 2020, Karma Mobility will be starting a number of environmentally friendly initiatives; this is a topic which is close to everyone’s hearts and we look forward to announcing more details in the first quarter of 2020.

“Providing durable and long-lasting wheelchairs will be particularly important in 2020, especially as keeping good quality wheelchairs in service for as long as possible is one way the industry can help the environment, as well as providing retailers & end-users peace of mind. We have been in business for 20 years and have a large number of wheelchairs in the market now, yet sales of spares are still only a small fraction of our total sales. I think the figures speak volumes about the products’ reliability.”

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We respect your privacy BarnettAnalysis & InsightsNewsroomSupplier NewsTrade NewsTrade ThoughtsAndrew Peirce,bathing,Brexit,Closomat,Conservatives,Cosyfeet,Fish Insurance,Handicare,health and social care,homelifts,Joerns Healthcare,Karma Mobility,MDR,medical device regulations,Motion Healthcare,Stairlifts,Stiltz,through-floor-lifts,toileting,Triride UKThe beginning of 2020 marks the beginning of some significant changes taking place in the mobility and independent living market. The future trade relationship with the EU after Brexit, a new government promising to revolutionise health and social care, big Medical Device Regulations changes coming into play and the increased...News, views & products for mobility, access and independent living professionals