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Despite outlining big ambitions for the mobility market, Southern Co-operative, the company behind Co-operative Mobility, has told THIIS that a shift in purchasing behaviour and increasing online competition led to it pulling out of the industry.

Launched back in 2009 by Southern Co-operative, Co-operative Mobility was set up to operate alongside and complement its store model and funeral business.

With the Co-Operative having diversified into a number of different areas of its 146-year history and boasting a network of over 200 convenience stores and 50 funeral homes, the entrance of such a large household name was on the radar of many in the sector.

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Trading as Co-operative Independent Living until 2017, where it rebranded to Co-operative Mobility, Mark Smith, Chief Executive of Southern Co-operative, had outlined had big plans to expand the company’s e-commerce activity and become a dominant player in the market.

The online-seller offered a wide range of mobility aids, daily living aids and moving and handling products, from wheelchairs to standing hoists.

In spite of the significant resources behind it, with Southern Co-operative recording sales of £450.9m (£431.2m 2017/18) for the year ended January 27th 2019, the company decided to pull the plug on its mobility and independent living operations.

Speaking to a spokesperson at Southern Co-operative, the company said: “After careful consideration, we took the decision to close our Co-op Mobility business on 31 July.

“When we originally launched the online mobility concept it provided a strategic fit between our convenience store and funeral businesses, utilising our retail and service experience and expertise. However, the way people purchase Aids to Daily Living has changed significantly and the online mobility space has grown rapidly.”

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Not going down the bricks and mortar route, the company decided to pursue an online-focused strategy with competitive pricing at the core but failed to become a significant element of the Co-operative’s overall offering.

“Co-op Mobility represented less than 1% of our total business turnover,” continued Southern Co-operative’s spokesperson.

“This decision has allowed us to take a step back to re-appraise how co-operative values and principles can best be applied to benefit consumers in this market. It has also enabled us to focus on our core businesses activities of retail, end of life services and franchise.”

“Our partners, NRS Healthcare, will continue to trade as normal and we will be referring customers to its website for any future product needs: www.nrshealthcare.co.uk.

“There was no impact on our colleagues.”

The story bears all the hallmarks of the Betterlife exit earlier in 2019, when to the industry’s surprise, e-commerce mobility giant ceased its retail operations, citing difficulty “to remain competitive, particularly relating to the supply of high-ticket items into customers’ homes.”

Following the announcement, retail leaders from across the mobility sector shared their views on the departure of Betterlife, with Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of long-running retailer TPG DisableAids, noting that the product themselves only consist of a small part of what his and other mobility retailers in the market offer.

Speaking with THIIS back in April, he said: “The rest of what we sell is the knowledge, the assessment, the handover, the aftercare, and the long-term service; that all has a value, even if a first-time buyer cannot see that value.

“It obviously does mean that we will lose some deals to other companies that sell mainly on price. Online business invariably has very little else to offer other than a keen price, but there always seems to be someone who is prepared to go a little lower just to close the deal.”

The departure of two heavy hitters with deep pockets from the market in 2019 highlights the importance of getting the retail proposition right in order to achieve sustainable success, as well as suggesting that bricks and mortar stores have a strategic advantage in the sector, despite the doom and gloom surrounding the high street.

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https://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/co-operative-mobility-thiis-magazine.jpghttps://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/co-operative-mobility-thiis-magazine-150x150.jpgCalvin BarnettNewsroomRetailer NewsTrade Newsaftercare,aids to daily living,Alastair Gibbs,Assessment,Co-Op Mobility,Co-Operative Mobility,e-commerce,long-term service,Mark Smith,mobility giants,mobility sector,NRS Healthcare,Southern Co-Operative,TPG DisableAidsDespite outlining big ambitions for the mobility market, Southern Co-operative, the company behind Co-operative Mobility, has told THIIS that a shift in purchasing behaviour and increasing online competition led to it pulling out of the industry. Launched back in 2009 by Southern Co-operative, Co-operative Mobility was set up to operate...News, views & products for mobility, access and independent living professionals