EXCLUSIVE: Clearwell Mobility boss says government should clearly identify mobility retailers as exempt
In the wake of the government informing all but a few retail sectors to close their doors, Clearwell Mobility’s managing director has called for all mobility stores to be included in the retail exemption list.
The call follows recent guidance from the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) regarding how mobility retailers can trade during the lockdown, as well as Ableworld’s announcement that it had received permission from MPs to keep all of its branches open.
After the government told all retailers to close their physical premises, it released a list notable exceptions which included supermarkets, medical services, petrol stations, hardware stores, pet shops and even bike stores – see the full list here.
This led to confusion in the sector as mobility shops were omitted from the list, with some shops remaining open to the public and others temporarily closing. This uncertainty was compounded with the classification of ‘key workers’ which many in the industry understood to include mobility retailers as they are involved in the distribution of medical devices.
Discussing the exclusion of mobility stores from the exemption list, Duncan Gillett, Managing Director of Clearwell Mobility, commented: “Some of the shops still open and trading feel very inconsequential when compared to the provision of equipment like wheelchairs. Pet shops, bicycle retailers, DIY sheds all stay open under the pretence of being essential and yet sales of vital equipment to keep the elderly and disabled safe are ignored.”
According to advice from the BHTA, mobility retailers should avoid appointments in store unless absolutely necessary and instead turn to the internet and taking orders via the telephone to limit physical contact with customers throughout the pandemic.
Highlighting the need for physical mobility stores to remain open, Duncan explained: “The in-store assessment process is critical when selling most of our motorised equipment. These products need to be tailored to the person and their disability.
“Most dealers will operate a combination of showroom assessments and home assessments but the showroom assessments are normally better for the customer as they allow a greater range of equipment to be tried. The temporary closure of our showrooms has led to a dramatic fall in sales of the larger motorised equipment.
“In common with most retailers, these products make up about 60 percent of sales. The frustration is that it is relatively easy for us to put in place precautions such as practising social distancing between staff and customers, limiting the numbers entering the showroom and thoroughly cleaning as we go which greatly reduce the risk of transmission. These were working well prior to the restrictions coming in.
“Even for the smaller products, our customers still appreciate being able to try the products and get advice from staff. Disposing of packaging and assembling products is also an issue for most customers.”
Emphasising the important role that the mobility retail sector plays in helping ensure patients can be discharged safely from hospitals and remain safe independently, Duncan stressed that the government should be consistent and include all mobility shops in its exemption list.
“The sector is still relatively small compared to other types of retail and therefore easily ignored. It was particularly frustrating to see a blanket exemption for ‘health shops’ when the restrictions were announced, only to find that this was dropped once the official, more detailed list was announced,” he continued.
“This indicates a lack of an effective voice for the industry when these regulations are being decided. I don’t think that we have been deliberately targeted as needing to close, it’s just that those making the decision in government haven’t been reminded of the importance of our products to the safety of our customers and to enable hospital discharges for the elderly.
“I would call on those that represent the industry to lobby for a clear exception from government for mobility shops.”
The South East’s largest Motability-accredited mobility dealer, Clearwell Mobility was launched in 2004 from its first showroom in Brighton and has expanded its store portfolio to 12 across the region.https://thiis.co.uk/exclusive-clearwell-mobility-boss-says-government-should-clearly-identify-mobility-retailers-as-exempt/https://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Clearwell-1.jpghttps://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Clearwell-1-150x150.jpgCoronavirus NewsCOVID-19 Trade NewsGovernment & Local AuthoritiesNewsroomRetailer NewsSector NewsTrade NewsAbleworld,BHTA,British Healthcare Trades Association,Clearwell Mobility,coronavirus,COVID-19,Duncan Gillett,mobility retailers,mobility shops,MPsIn the wake of the government informing all but a few retail sectors to close their doors, Clearwell Mobility’s managing director has called for all mobility stores to be included in the retail exemption list. The call follows recent guidance from the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) regarding how mobility...Calvin BarnettCalvin Barnettcalvin@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine