Aaron Sverdloff and Darren Macey

The power of picking the right products

A common issue for retailers, both inside and outside the mobility industry, is that of internet sellers undercutting prices and eroding margins from bricks and mortar stores. The situation has left many retailers questioning the best course of action as the trend in consumers to turn online continues to increase. For southern-based Lifestyle and Mobility, the key is carefully selected products.

Shrewdly selected suppliers

The topic of eroding margins for retailers battling with lower prices often found online has left many at a loss for the best way to respond. Should prices be lowered and margin lost in order to secure a sale? The recent fate of Carillion stands as a testament to the woes that befall companies that are willing to walk the tightrope of tiny margins to secure business.

Speaking with Aaron Sverdloff, Managing Director for Lifestyle and Mobility, he told THIIS that the company has avoided becoming involved in costly price wars by wisely choosing what products it promotes and sells.

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Aaron told THIIS: “We like to focus on manufacturers who are concerned about the quality of their products and how they are being sold, manufacturers such as TGA, Quickie, Invacare, Quantum and Ottobock. Sales of these products tend not to be driven so much by price, but more on the quality and features of the products.

“How the products are sold is imperative to our business; we ensure each customer has been given a thorough assessment in line with the BHTA code of practice. At the point of sale, we also emphasise that our infrastructure is in place to provide a professional after sales service as well.”

A focus on specialisation

The strategy seems to be working for the mobility retailer who expanded its retail operations across the South throughout 2017. Aaron discussed the main focus driving the company forward in more detail.

“Over the last few years, our focus has been to become a known specialist provider of active wheelchairs and powerchairs. The products can range from a basic specification or include specialist controls such as head, chin, and environmental controls for use in customer homes. Each client’s needs are assessed and the specification provided is always tailored according to those needs,” he said.

“We are so passionate and committed to this focus that we have invested a significant amount of time and money in a new specialist unit in Potters Bar. The new Potters Bar depot isn’t like our normal retail stores, it’s a specialist centre that focuses purely on these types of products. Its location has enabled Lifestyle and Mobility to fully cover London and all surrounding areas.”

   Strategically selected stock

Headed up by Business Development Manager Simon Greenway, Aaron explains how he has taken the specialist centre from strength to strength, growing that side of the business significantly.

“Simon is working closely with charities, OTs and other medical professionals. The service element of this side of our business is crucial to its continuing success and we have recently taken on additional highly experienced service engineers to ensure we give the best levels of service possible.”

According to the successful southern retailer, this strategy delivers better commercial efficiencies and a better experience for customers, both in the short and long run, enhancing Lifestyle and Mobility’s reputation and business growth.

“It is one of the ways that we help ensure we aren’t competing with the online boys on price. Generally, these aren’t the types of products they are usually stocking because they tend to be on the higher end of the price spectrum and require more specialist knowledge. They are more after the lower end of the market, with products that may look good on screen but don’t provide the same quality for the customer,” continued Aaron.

“We are careful who we work with and try to give our business to the manufacturers that do not necessarily give their business to sellers that are just interested in box shifting and flogging them at the cheapest cost.”

The retailer recently won TGA’s coveted Dealer of the Month Award for December after achieving significant success supplying TGA scooters and was awarded exclusive trade discounts, free PR support, as well as a bottle of bubbly.

Darren Macey, Business Development Manager for Lifestyle and Mobility, also shared the importance of building relationships with the right suppliers.

“We regard our relationship with suppliers as very important,” commented Darren.

“Working in unison with TGA is more like a partnership where we support one another for the common good. We appreciate the service received from Martyn Simpson, TGA Area Sales Manager, who visits regularly and provides added incentives. Cooperation, we feel, is always the best way forward and forms part of our traditional ethos. We approach business as it used to be: fair, honest and focused on the long term.”

Stocking the right products

Discussing the recent TGA accolade, Darren discussed what products were proving particularly popular amongst the retailer’s customers.

“TGA Vitas continue to be really popular with customers and in relation to new TGA products, the Zest Plus has been a big hit. I believe this is the first ever car boot scooter that has effective suspension; when you pull away, you feel the dip of the rear suspension.”

Having a clear understanding of what their customers are looking for plays a central role in the retailer selecting what products it stocks as well.

“Southend and Bournemouth are densely populated areas, many people live in flats or apartments and so have limited storage space. Despite this, they still want a medium-sized scooter with all the bells and whistles. They get that with TGA’s Zest Plus. The folding Minimo Plus 4 has also done well and we are starting to see healthy sales of the new 8mph Ibex,” continued Darren.

“Your average 60-year-old is now very different and demands contemporary styling and high specification as standard. In our opinion, TGA were the first supplier to truly elevate scooter design and engineering and their products continue to look more modern and desirable than many other brands.”

   Carefully chosen products help avoid costly price-wars

Price match promises

Cleverly choosing the right products to stock and suppliers to work with has also allowed Lifestyle and Mobility to feel confident enough to offer its customers a ‘Price Match Promise’ without being constantly forced to match their products to prices offering little or no margin.

“It really is the case that our strategy is driven by good quality products. In our store, we offer a price match promise, however, if you search for the higher-end products online, they don’t tend to be readily available without some margin being retained, so we are happy to price match,” explained Aaron.

“If there is a company out there that is selling a quality product with no margin, then we would still match that because that is our price match promise, however, it is very rare that we have to match products that I would say have been ‘trashed’ on the internet.”

Sustainable strategy

By carefully picking the right products to sell, Lifestyle and Mobility’s strategy is one of long-term sustainability, differentiating itself from competitors using prices as a USP.

For many retailers worried about the fear of losing customers to competitors willing to undercut on pricing, the lure of slashing prices to keep their customers can seem very appealing. This short-term thinking, however, can do far more harm than good in the long-run, as price wars often prove to be a race to the bottom where no business really wins and the service & quality of product provided to the customers tends to suffer.

“As a company, we are not focused on making large margins from the products we provide, however, it is essential for our customers that a certain level of margin exists so that the expected levels of aftersales care can be provided. Constant provision based on the price alone restricts choice and is not always in the customer’s best interest. It’s essential to think about the long term.”

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