Mobility Scotland
The team at Mobility Scotland at its new National Stairlift & Homelift Centre

Mobility Scotland has opened a new showroom in Glasgow dedicated solely to stairlifts and homelifts which it hopes will be a ground-breaking ‘centre of excellence’ in Central Scotland. THIIS spoke to Billy Finnie, Operations Manager at Mobility Scotland to find out more

When THIIS caught up with Glasgow retailer Mobility Scotland last year it was thrilled to have been recognised for its outstanding levels of customer service in the Motability Scheme’s annual awards.

As Billy Finnie, the store’s operation manager, stated at the time, 2020 was a difficult one for the business in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. The store’s participation in the Motability Scheme brought many benefits, however, including a steady revenue stream all-year-round.

But now, the Kirkintilloch-based store is ready to spread its wings having purchased a larger 450-square-metre showroom which is dedicated solely to stairlifts and homelifts. The National Stairlift & Homelift Centre is just a stone’s throw from Mobility Scotland’s original showroom and office.

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Leading the way in home access

Over the past few years, as Billy explains, Mobility Scotland had already taken steps to restructure its product range, working with fewer suppliers and the best products.

“We started repositioning the business by consolidating our supplier base and rationalising our core product range significantly,” Billy says. “We phased out the traditional retail of daily living aids, adopting a signposting process instead and adapted our business within the world of high impact, transformational, home access products.”

The COVID pandemic had a “big impact” on the business and the team, especially with the knowledge that another mutant variant could lead to another lockdown, or at best, social restrictions. It was an experience, he says, that “brought with it a resilience and step-change in attitude by both the business sector and consumers.”

Last year Mobility Scotland commissioned a survey exploring its customers’ motivations and objectives post COVID and, according to Billy, this comprehensively delivered the findings that when making these significant home access purchases the customer, or their family members, would like to see and experience the product first.

Says Billy: “Given the option, 75 per cent of prospective buyers would like the try-before-you-buy experience for these high value, high impact products, hence the new store.

“The research helped us determine why and where we should invest and coupled to a step change in consumer behaviour post-COVID, these factors were worthy of the hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment for the long-term development of the business.”
The findings cemented its vision to ultimately become a market leader within the home access market.

Mobility Scotland
Customers can try out the stairlift for themselves

Finding the right premises

It took about six months to find the right premises, explains Billy, with the retailer searching across Central Scotland.

It was a challenging exercise, he admits. “The whole world was opening again from COVID, economies were bouncing back, customers were getting back on the high street and buying and landlords, as a result, were hiking up rents and increasing their property let and lease values.”

This prompted the retailer to change tact and buy a building outright. The success of Mobility Scotland’s stairlifts division had given the retailer enough buying power to negotiate a decent deal.

The main objective was to find a suitable site on a secondary location such as industrial park rather than an expensive retail or business park, explains Billy. It would need to offer around 500 square feet of space, whilst being highly visible to main roads and thoroughfares. “Then ‘boom’,” says Billy. “Our wish list was met by a company whose owner had decided to retire and sell the building as a vacant possession.”
Ironically, he says, the new premises is in very close proximity to the existing office and showroom, which it will continue to develop.

Moving in

The retailer officially moved into the new building in April 2022 after a six-month build up period, consisting of major renovation work. The aim was to create an interior with a modern, relaxed vibe, and Billy is confident they have achieved just that.

“It’s big, bright, modern, spacious and very inviting, showcasing the world’s top access products. It’s over two floors with access via an amazing Stiltz Trio Homelift, which is a real jaw-dropping showpiece, given the size of the showroom.

“We also have the equally stunning Handicare 1100 on one of the staircases for customers to physically use, and on the third staircase we have the stair-climbing wheelchair option, the brilliant R90, which really reinforces the theme of the building as we market it as a ‘centre of excellence’ for home access solutions.

On the ground floor there is an attractive, modern meeting area where staff can sit down comfortably and chat with customers about their needs and objectives. Billy continues: “At the customer’s pace we can lead them to the phenomenal first floor where we have all the straight and curved stairlifts expertly installed and displayed on the purpose built demonstration staircases ready for them to try.”

There are eight demo units in all, from the Flow X, Platinum Ultimate and the Handicare range of straights and curves. Says Billy: “It truly is unrivalled anywhere in the country, offering an environment where customers can see, try and experience these world class products under one roof.”

In preparation for the move the retailer had already started publicising and advertising the showroom across its network of occupational therapists (OTs) and all the local authority OTs who it works with. This means that the showroom is already heavily booked out by OTs looking to bring their clients in for demonstrations.

The retailer has now started marketing across its domestic customer base, and plans for an “extravagant” official launch where Billy states there will be number of dignitaries and celebrities present.

Mobility Scotland
The Stiltz Trio Homelift transports customers to the second floor

Meeting customers needs

Mobility Scotland’s typical demographic is the older consumer, although it works with a significant number of customers who span the age groups and have varied physical or neurological conditions. Explains Billy: “Ultimately, we work with customers who for whatever reason have difficulty accessing areas of their homes. We’re all about understanding needs then assisting our customers in achieving safe mobilisation throughout their home.”

Working with manufacturers like Access BDD, Handicare and Platinum Stairlifts, Mobility Scotland offers a variety of solutions to meet its customer’s requirements which all do well.
Billy adds: “The Handicare 1100 has been the most well received by our customers over the last couple of years and has been our bestselling, fastest moving product.”

The store has also begun to expand its home access category further. It recently joined forces with Baronmead International and will be taking its “fantastic” Stairmatic stairclimbers to market as well as other models.
Adds Billy: “This marks a significant moment for the business as it copper-fastens the products which are key within the access at home market. Every product sits nicely within the themed approach and does an alternative job giving options and variety to every customer.”

Welcoming new retail partners

Staff training on products sold at Mobility Scotland is extremely important, explains Billy, especially in the home access sector

“Our products are high value, high impact and highly technical so our knowledge needs to be thorough and super tuned. We have a dedicated technical support division who look after all our own product installations.”

Mobility Scotland has also been lending its expertise to some of the UK biggest retailers in home access, delivering its equipment into Scotland and offering technical support. This has been an amazing success, says Billy, with the retailer doing the selling and Mobility Scotland taking care of the fitting and maintaining. “Training and knowledge is paramount and we all have Personal Development plans in place which commits to circa 80 hours product training per year,” Billy explains.

As Mobility Scotland looks to drive its business forward it is asking companies in the UK who would like their business to grow in Scotland to consider working with it.

Mobility Scotland stairclimber
Staff members demonstrate a stairclimber

Billy comments: “If you have an access product we could bring into our proposition then please get in touch (we’ll help you grow) or consider utilising our highly skilled technical division as a sub-contactor for installations, servicing and support if you sell direct into Scottish market.

“Also, all mobility retailers out there who sell stairlifts on a referral type model please get in touch, we can add value to you customers and your business. We want to continue growing and can do this best through collaboration and helping your business grow as well.”
Billy adds: “Mobility Scotland have fully embraced the ethos and mutual benefits of collaboration in our quest for business development and growth and we have a proven track record in achieving this.

Returns and rewards

Diversifying has already begun to deliver returns and rewards, Billy says: “Our stairlifts division alone was born in the early COVID period and is on course this fiscal year to deliver £1 million revenue.”

Short-term, the main challenges will come from fragmented supply chains, stretched lead times and poor-quality logistics, says Billy.

“Some manufacturers have made changes to their supply chain partners to either reduce costs or improve efficiencies. In some cases this hasn’t worked and the result is an inferior or unreliable product being delivered to the end-user, or some popular products or features have even been discontinued due to supply chain issues.

“The impact of that on businesses is significant on top of already vastly increased operational costs. There is still the lingering impact of Brexit and hiring good people has become an issue, and may continue into 2022 and beyond.”

The team at Mobility Scotland feels very excited and optimistic about the future, not just for this year, but “far beyond.”

Mobility Scotland staff
Staff at Mobility Scotland having a team meeting

Footfall, explains Billy, has been very positive although the retailer says that it has managed this in an extremely disciplined way, by working to an 80 per cent appointment routine each day.

“We see, and hopefully this is consistent across the UK, a massive change in people’s attitudes and buying motivations.”

Customers, he says, have developed “a new mindset” throughout the course of the pandemic and are becoming more decisive when it comes to making purchases, whether it be general home improvements or access within the home products or general mobility products.

“Gone are the days of procrastination and stigmatisation over mobility products. Purchases are being made and will continue to be made.

“The home has become sacrosanct, and I believe people want a modern, safe, and easily accessible home where they can live and relax and mitigate the risk of accidents, being hospitalised unnecessarily or flirting with the prospect of a care home and are more willing to buy preventatively, with modern, user-friendly solutions to achieve this.

“Mobility access, comfort and safety products have seen tremendous growth recently, this continued trend coupled to consumer decisiveness will ensure the prognosis is healthy.”

www.mobilityscotlandltd.co.uk

Mobility Scotland vans
Vans will transport products straight to customers’ homes
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