Retailer Spotlight: HWB Mobility
HWB Mobility: Not taking it lying down
Although new to the online world, HWB Mobility have been trading since 2010 but like so many businesses in the midst of a pandemic, it is had to adapt the way it works. As a result, the firm, which is based in Barry, South Wales, opted to set up a bespoke ecommerce website. Partnering with the likes of Repose, Camelot, Furmanac, Bodyease, Vogue Beds and Opera, HWB Mobility has been bringing adjustable beds, rise & recline chairs, profiling beds and specialist seating solutions to individuals, charities and the healthcare sector right across the UK. THIIS caught up with its director Andrew Morgan following the launch of his new website…
Andrew Morgan and his partner Julie Campbell are the founders of HWB Mobility; a nationwide supplier of British made mobility furniture.
The business was formed back in 2010. “Its hard to believe that was 11 years ago now,” laughs Andrew. “It’s a cliché but it really has flown by!”
It is safe to say the mobility industry is a world apart from Andrew’s formative years working in banking and for the HMRC, but a chance encounter led to him working in the mobility furniture industry.
Andrew explains that he was between jobs when he took up a temporary job opportunity from a ‘friend of a friend’ to work as a tele-appointer for an adjustable bed business.
It was only supposed to be for a couple of weeks but he ended up staying on permanently.
“As soon as I got a taste for the job satisfaction that comes from making such a difference to people’s quality of life, there was no going back,” he recalls.
Andrew’s job involved calling potential customers to arrange home visits by appointment with the sales team.
Within six months he had been promoted to Office Manager, managing a team of 12 tele-appointers. His role involved much more involvement with his colleagues in field sales and inspired by them, and even though he couldn’t yet drive, he asked his boss if he could work in this area.
The step-up to door-to-door sales was a useful learning curve for Andrew in learning about the bedding and seating sector in more depth, he says.
“We’d have training days where we’d learn all about the mechanics of the adjustable beds and riser recliners, the features like built-in massage on foam mattresses, the varying degrees of firmnesses and the vital importance of pressure care…
“For the chairs, it was all about posture and ensuring the chair fit the customer and not the other way round. We learnt about the different back cushions and the reasons someone might choose a lateral support over a button back for instance.”
Andrew was eventually trained up as a Field Sales Representative, and he passed his driving test too.
“From my very first appointment, I was hooked,” he comments. “No two days were the same and I met some wonderful people with amazing stories to tell. I’d found my niche and there was no going back.”
Sales reps in the adjustable bed world have been portrayed in a bad light on occasions, he says, and sometimes deservedly so, with some using high pressure tactics and outstaying welcomes.
“I just saw it as a numbers game,” says Andrew. “I’d be as professional and as polite with a lead resulting in a sale as I would be if it was a, “sorry, I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to see you.”
“You learn to take rejection with a pinch of salt, brush it off and move on to the next one. More often than not though, I would be lucky enough to be offered in for a cup of tea!”
In 2010, once Andrew had a reached a point in his career where he was confident in his skills and experience, he felt ready to set up his own business alongside his wife Julie.
There were no hard feelings with the company he left behind, he explains. “I had always made clear my aspirations and ambitions and so the transition was smooth and seamless with no hard feelings.”
Andrew couldn’t wait to put all the invaluable knowledge and experience he had gained over the previous five years to good use.
Going it alone
HWB Mobility didn’t start out as a national supplier. Up until the pandemic struck, Andrew and Julie were focused on making direct sales.
Andrew explains: “We covered South Wales and the West of England and visited clients in their own homes to discuss their requirements for our products.
“I would not only make the initial home visit but, along with Julie, we would deliver, install, demonstrate and carry out any aftercare where necessary.”
But then along came the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020…The business was hit hard and the couple’s income dropped off a cliff overnight.
Lockdown restrictions meant that the couple were unable to visit any new clients, and even if they were allowed to, morally it didn’t seem right, given that the vast majority of its clients were classed as ‘vulnerable’.
Says Andrew: “Our clients are mainly people over 60, living in their own homes but are struggling with arthritis and general aches and pains.
“They might have trouble sleeping and getting out of their chair. If my years as a door-to-door salesperson have taught me anything, it’s to listen and to understand.
“Our understanding of our prospective clients’ needs puts us in a great position to transfer our business model from an in-person one, to online.”
The move to online
Andrew and Julie had had the idea of developing a website for a long time. “Coronavirus simply caused us to run out of any more feasible excuses and forced our hand to a certain degree,” explains Andrew.
Looking back he says that working on the website was a good thing because it kept them busy and gave them a purpose.
“There’s hardly been a working day that has gone by without there being something to do,” he adds.
The couple invested heavily in a purpose built e-commerce website. The site took six months to create and they couldn’t be happier with the results.
Andrew says that his wife has been his rock throughout the entire process. He says: “Julie was the driving force behind the creation of the website and we wouldn’t be in the position we are now without her.”
When Julie’s not busy maintaining the website and managing the business’s social media presence, she is coordinating the finances, liaising with new manufacturers and investigating new product lines.
HWB Mobility has expanded its supplier list quite considerably over the last several months, and it now includes Repose Specialist Seating, Harvest Healthcare (who are now sister companies, owned by Prism Medical), Vogue Beds, Furmanac, Varimatic (Adjustamatic’s B2B arm), and Bodyease.
Andrew explains that they have been in talks with several others and will be in a position to add even more products to its range soon.
He adds: “In addition to adding to our manufacturer list, we have deployed the services of Healthcare Distribution Direct (HDD) to take care of installation services for us.
“It was an extremely difficult decision to hand over this part of our operation, but it really is in safe hands with Martin Foster [sales director for HDD] and his team.”
While business has been transformed by moving online the process hasn’t been without its difficulties. Communicating virtually with manufacturers and the web designer has been a challenge, says Andrew, but he feels that they are now stronger and better placed to deal with whatever challenges come next.
“Our main objective now is to get our name out there and to become a company that people can trust,” states Andrew.
To that end his aim is to continue to invest in paid newspaper advertising – possibly looking at radio advertising as well in the future – while exploring ways to grow his business’s reach organically.
The main competition to Andrew’s business is, of course, other online retailers that sell the same products, but he hopes that HWB Mobility stands out in several ways.
“We’ve meticulously researched the market for each and every product that we supply and as such, we can say – with a fair degree of confidence – that we are the lowest priced supplier of everything that we offer.”
The business’s offering of Repose chairs, for instance, is comprehensive, he says.
“Not only do we supply a wide range of both their riser recliners and healthcare chairs, the size range available through HWB Mobility is exhaustive and easily explained with a clearly visible and easily-understood size chart.
“There’s an array of fabrics to choose from, and an option for customers to choose a different inner and outer fabric too.”
Andrew explains that offering the lowest prices on the market for all of its products is an important consideration. “We want to give the customer every reason to shop with us,” he says.
The ‘price promise’ offered by HWB Mobility also aims to go that little bit further, he explains.
“We won’t just beat the price for the person that’s found it cheaper, we’ll alter the price on our site so it’s cheaper for everyone else from that point on.”
After months of plugging away on the website Andrew is satisfied that everything is finally in place now from a business perspective.
“Even before the virus, buying trends were leaning heavily towards online and so it makes perfect sense that we took this step in line with our clientele,” he reflects.
Covid aside, there is also the added challenge of Brexit impacting on sales. All of HWB Mobility’s suppliers are based in the UK but Andrew says that he is not naive enough to think that they won’t be affected.
He explains: “Clearly our manufacturers will have dealings with businesses on the continent so supply chains and prices could be impacted.
“Our strategy is to be the market’s lowest price point so where possible we will try and absorb these costs ourselves. One supplier has already put their prices up but we are yet to do the same.”
In the long term, Andrew says that he has ambitions to add scooters and power chairs to the product range at HWB Mobility.
He adds: “There are no plans to open a physical premises but if the market demands it, then we will certainly consider it.”
Andrew says that he does miss the old days of being out on the road – much more than he thought he would.
“It’s the face-to-face contact, listening to people’s wonderful tales of years gone by, visiting parts of the country I’d never been to and the good old fashioned buzz you get of making a sale in person.”
He hopes that one day soon things will settle down again and that he may still get out and about a little bit, but for now, he says, the new online venture is taking up every waking hour of his time.
“We’re thoroughly enjoying the challenge. All the years we’ve been in the industry has stood us in great stead to know our customers inside out and to be able to answer any questions that arise confidently and accurately.”
The mobility sector has faced challenges that it never thought it would have to in recent times, comments Andrew, but this period in time has been inspiring.
“It has been amazing to read the various articles printed in THIIS magazine, explaining how people and businesses have adapted, using technology to reach out to their clients.
“There are some extremely resilient, versatile and genius minds in this industry and my hope is that we will all come out of this even better for the experience.”
https://thiis.co.uk/retailer-spotlight-hwb-mobility/https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/DOR-Adjustable-Super-King-Bedstead-Head-up-3-Med.jpg?fit=900%2C604&ssl=1https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/DOR-Adjustable-Super-King-Bedstead-Head-up-3-Med.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1NewsroomRetailer SpotlightTrade Focusdealer,HWB Mobility,mattresses,Mobility,Retailer,retailer spotlight,riser reclinersHWB Mobility: Not taking it lying down Although new to the online world, HWB Mobility have been trading since 2010 but like so many businesses in the midst of a pandemic, it is had to adapt the way it works. As a result, the firm, which is based in Barry,...Liane McIvorLiane McIvorliane@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine