Retailer spotlight: How Ability Plus is going the extra mile
The opening of a spacious new showroom in Kent this year has marked an exciting milestone for Ability Plus which has been empowering customers with mobility challenges for 15 years…
Mobility aids and assistive devices provider Ability Plus earlier this year announced the grand opening on of its spacious new showroom at Dockside Outlet Centre in Chatham, Kent.
The expansion marked an exciting milestone for Ability Plus after 15 years in the business, with its spacious new surroundings offering an extensive range of mobility aids, including wheelchairs, mobility scooters, walking aids, and much more.
With a commitment to providing products that promote independence, comfort, and style, Graham Johnson, Managing Director at Ability Plus, says that the business is devoted to meeting the diverse needs of customers seeking enhanced mobility solutions.
“At Ability Plus, we believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to live a fulfilling and independent life,” says Graham. “Opening our store at the Dockside Outlet Centre allows us to bring our exceptional range of mobility aids and assistive devices closer to our valued customers.”
Established in 2008, Ability Plus, formerly known as Ability Outlet, started out as a small shop on Station Road in Rainham, Kent. Over the years this grew to five showrooms.
Apart from the showroom in Dockside Chatham, there are showrooms in Bluewater, Gillingham (its engineering hub), Sittingbourne Forum and Herne Bay. Such progress is not bad going considering business owner and founder Graham Johnson started his career in an altogether different industry.
Graham explains: “Prior to venturing into this business, I had a successful career in the City, where I managed an investor relations team, specialising in stock and shares analysis. However, when I reached the age of 40, I felt the need for a change and wanted to focus on something more local and personally fulfilling.
“Entrepreneurship had always been a dream of mine, and my studies in marketing had highlighted the potential of the baby boomer market, often referred to as the “grey pound.””
Recognising the significant opportunities within this demographic, Graham decided to establish Ability Plus as a business dedicated to serving the unique needs of the ageing population.
He continues: “By providing a range of products and services tailored specifically to the requirements of seniors, we aim to enhance their quality of life and promote independence.
“Through our expertise in marketing and our commitment to exceptional customer service, we strive to make a positive impact on the lives of our valued customers.”
Graham currently serves as the Managing Director of Ability Plus, overseeing the financial and HR aspects of the business. Supporting him are two highly experienced and trusted colleagues, Lorraine (Finance Director) and Chris (Commercial Director). Says Graham: “Together we form a dedicated team committed to the success and growth of Ability Plus.”
Added to the mix is Graham’s son, Ben, who leads the stairlift division at Ability Plus. Graham adds: “With his expertise and passion for the industry, he ensures that our stairlift business operates seamlessly, providing top-notch products and services to our valued customers.”
Graham is also thrilled to have his daughter, Jade, on board as she embarks on a one-year apprenticeship in digital marketing. He says: “Her fresh perspective and knowledge in this field bring innovative ideas to our marketing strategies, allowing us to effectively reach and engage with our target audience.
“At Ability Plus, we believe in investing in our team and providing opportunities for growth and development. We are proud to have a family-orientated work environment that fosters collaboration, professionalism, and a shared commitment to excellence.”
As part of its grand opening celebrations in August 2023, the new Ability Plus store at the Dockside Outlet Centre offered various promotions and exclusive offers for visiting customers. They also had the opportunity to participate in product demonstrations, enabling them to experience first-hand the functionality of its products.
The retailer had previously operated its showroom at a smaller unit on a main road in Chatham for 12 years but after outgrowing this they looked at the possibilities of the Dockside Outlet Centre, which attracts more footfall, explains Graham. Meanwhile, the engineering side of Ability Plus was moved to a nearby industrial unit, which is also used to store stock.
The new showroom has been designed to offer a modern and welcoming environment, explains Graham, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable environment for customers and staff alike. “Our goal with the new space was to create an environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, and productivity,” explains Graham.
Knowledgeable and friendly staff are on-hand to assist customers, providing expert guidance and support, and helping them in finding the ideal mobility solutions tailored to their specific needs.
With its retail space now doubled Ability Plus aimed to address several key areas that we felt were limiting our potential in our previous location. These included showing more Rise & Recline beds and chairs, along with a stairlift display.
The new space offers an environment that promotes teamwork, attracts talent, improves efficiency, and supports the business’s long-term growth objectives, explains Graham.
“Firstly, we wanted to improve communication and teamwork among our employees. The new space allows for open-concept work areas, meeting rooms, and breakout spaces that encourage interaction and idea sharing.
“We are excited about the opportunities this space brings and look forward to achieving even greater success as a result.”
The store is tailored to meet the needs of all individuals seeking mobility solutions and aids, explains Graham, which are primarily seniors, individuals with disabilities, and those recovering from injuries or surgeries.
Graham adds: “We understand the challenges they may face in their daily lives and strive to provide them with a wide range of mobility products such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, and other assistive devices.
“Additionally, we offer personalised consultations and expert guidance to ensure that our customers find the perfect solution for their unique requirements. Our goal is to empower individuals to maintain their independence and improve their quality of life.”
New product categories
Finding itself within an ever-changing marketplace which includes more suppliers offering products directly and increased competition from online retailers, Ability Plus is selective on the products that it stocks, explains Graham.
He envisages expanding the store’s product offerings to include a wider range of mobility aids and equipment.
“There’s no point in stocking products that can be found online for a lot less. By extending into the Rise & Recline product market we are finding customers are more likely to come into store to see these products that are important to try before you buy.”
At the same time, as specialists in high-end powerchairs and specialist wheelchairs, Ability Plus strives to stay at the forefront of innovative mobility solutions by working closely with suppliers that support its business in this area, including Invacare, Sunrise Medical, Quantum Rehab and Ki Mobility, to name a few.
Graham continues: “We carefully select products that offer superior performance, comfort, and reliability, ensuring that our customers have access to the best options available.”
As a Motability dealer, Ability Plus aims to provide comprehensive repair and servicing solutions, which are all offered in-house for customers.
Says Graham: “Our skilled team, dedicated to serving the Kent area, strives to address any issues with our customers’ products right on-site whenever possible. We understand the importance of minimising any inconvenience caused.
“In situations where the repair necessitates bringing the product back to our workshop, we go the extra mile by offering a loan unit to our customers. This way, they can seamlessly continue with their day while we take care of their product. We believe in providing top-notch service and ensuring our customers’ satisfaction every step of the way.”
Enhanced online presence
Meanwhile, the website plays a crucial role in the Ability Plus business. Graham explains: “In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is essential for any business, including mobility retailers.
“Our website serves as a central hub where customers can access information about our products and services, learn about our company, and make inquiries.”
In addition, Graham says that they are looking at the possibility of setting up an e-commerce website that will compliment its stores.
“We plan to further enhance our online presence and e-commerce capabilities to reach a broader customer base and provide a seamless buying experience. This includes investing in user-friendly website features, online support systems, and efficient delivery services.
Looking at the mobility sector as a whole, there are several challenges that have emerged and may continue to impact the industry even beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, explains Graham.
These include how a growing ageing population looks set to increase the demand for mobility products and services. “However, this also means that there will be a greater need for innovative and affordable solutions to cater to the diverse needs of older adults,” he adds.
As healthcare systems evolve, with the possibility of shifts in funding and reimbursement policies for mobility aids and equipment, mobility retailers will need to adapt to these changes and find ways to navigate the complexities of healthcare financing, Graham explains.
The mobility sector has seen significant advancements in technology, including the development of smart devices and assistive technologies, he says.
“Embracing and keeping up with these technological innovations will be crucial for mobility retailers to stay competitive and meet customer expectations.
“We aim to stay at the forefront of technological advancements in the industry, incorporating smart technologies and innovative solutions into our product portfolio.”
There is an increasing focus on sustainability across industries and environmental concerns, and the mobility sector is no exception, says Graham. “Mobility retailers will need to consider eco-friendly practices, such as reducing waste, using sustainable materials, and promoting recycling initiatives.”
With customer satisfaction a priority for Ability Plus Graham says that the business will continue to provide personalised consultations, professional assessments, and excellent after-sales service. Building strong relationships with customers and maintaining a reputation for reliability and expertise is fundamental to the business.
Graham concludes: “Overall, we see a future where the mobility sector continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of customers. By staying proactive, embracing technology, and focusing on customer-centric strategies, we are confident in the growth and success of our business in the years to come.”https://thiis.co.uk/retailer-spotlight-how-ability-plus-is-going-the-extra-mile/https://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_26fa.jpghttps://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_26fa-150x150.jpgNewsroomRetailer SpotlightTrade FocusAbility Plus,access,Kent,Mobility,retailer spotlight,showroomThe opening of a spacious new showroom in Kent this year has marked an exciting milestone for Ability Plus which has been empowering customers with mobility challenges for 15 years… Mobility aids and assistive devices provider Ability Plus earlier this year announced the grand opening on of its spacious...Liane McIvorLiane McIvorliane@thiis.co.ukEditorTHIIS Magazine