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Key players share their thoughts and hopes for the mobility sector following the reopening of the leisure, tourism and hospitality industries.

On the 23rd June, prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed that from the 4th July, bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels, B&Bs, campsites and more can reopen.

It comes after three months of lockdown where people have been confined to their homes and local areas, restraining demand for powered mobility ranges.

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A boost for mobility aid sales?

With the opportunity to take summer holidays back on the cards, players in the sector expect to see sales for these popular mobility products return.

“I think its great news that the tourism sector reopening,” commented Tim Mills, Head of Business for Motion Healthcare.

“We have found business really improved throughout June with all the changes being introduced so I think this next stage will help us all recover even more from a quiet April & May.”

The positive outlook is shared by Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of TPG DisableAids: “Tuesday’s news on taking the next step to relax some of the measures around COVID-19 are to be welcomed by the majority that have a retail presence.

“Since the first steps to open up non-essential retailers, we have already seen an increase in footfall and the additional confidence that should be stimulated from 4th July onwards should help that increase to gather pace. We are already up to pre-COVID levels of installs of stairlifts and hoists and now are seeing an increase in mobility product demand.”

Interestingly, Alastair points out it is not the more lifestyle, travel-orientated segment of the market where the company has seen mobility product demand rise as some might expect.

“Strangely, the biggest demand so far is for bigger, longer-range scooters to allow people to travel from home rather than small transportable scooters,” he added.

Motion’s Head of Business, however, anticipates demand for lightweight transportable scooters and powerchairs growing as people opt for more domestic holidays this summer.

“I think a lot more people will be planning a staycation for this year which can only be good news for the industry,” he commented.

“I can see a spike in sales being driven because of this, coupled with our target market having a bit more money in their pockets from not being out and about much recently.”

A view from the coast

For mobility retailers in coastal locations and beauty spots, the reopening of the tourism and hospitality sectors, as well as rising popularity for staycations, will be as essential as the reopening of retail stores in June.

Following the announcement, however, Skegness-based mobility retailer People First Mobility’s MD Karen Sheppard was less convinced that the reopening of the tourism and hospitality sectors will be the magic bullet to a quick recovery for coastal retailers.

“After the easement of the latest COVID guidelines saying that you can now head to the coast and stay over, we are unsure of what impact it will have for retail on the coast,” she said.

“The population will increase as many will seize the opportunity to get away to somewhere different after three months in their own towns but I think many will still stay in their homes and see how things progress.

“When they do arrive, will they feel confident enough to go to the shops?  We will see an increase in sales but I do not think it will be anywhere near what we would normally achieve this time of year.”

Speaking with the seaside mobility retailer during the lockdown, Karen told THIIS that retailers located on the coasts are largely reliant on the seasonal trade generated by holidaymakers to survive the quieter off-season period.

“I am not sure the reopening of these sectors now will be enough to save many coastal businesses as winter was quiet and we will soon be heading into winter again, having missed three important bank holidays already this year,” she continued.

“Rentals will be lower than other years and also our fleet is reduced because of cleaning, alongside some of the hire products having to be stored for 72 hours before re-hire.

“It will be a tough year and we still have a long way to go before real normality comes back.”

Suppliers to hit the road

Already social media is awash of mobility retailers and suppliers confirming that staff are returning, production output is growing and new products are being launched as the sector continues to show signs of life.

With the return of the hospitality sector, Motion’s Tim expects this to fuel B2B trade as suppliers look to hit the road and re-engage with their trade partners.

“Hotels being re-opened is also going to really help us get back to visiting our partners, some of which have been desperate to see our new products ready to take advantage of the increase in footfall the latest changes and hot weather will bring,” he finished.

“Luckily, Motion is fully stocked and ready for this so that we can make sure we don’t let our partners during the remainder of the summer with stock issues.”

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