The shop manager at Life and Mobility Solutions showroom in Melksham
The shop manager at Life and Mobility Solutions showroom in Melksham

The fourth Life and Mobility Solutions showroom opened in Wiltshire recently, boasting high visibility on a busy road and a spacious interior. THIIS chats to the store’s owner, Mark Cawthra, about the new store and how he gets the most satisfaction from finding the right products for his customers…

It’s not difficult to miss the new Life and Mobility Solutions mobility showroom in the Wiltshire town of Melksham. Located next to a supermarket on the busy Western Way road, the large store is certainly easy to spot. What the area is missing in busy footfall it makes up for by being located in high traffic area, which was all part of the appeal for owner Mark Cawthra.

Mark admits the store, his fourth in the Wiltshire and Somerset region, is a little different from his other, much smaller, stores, and that was the main attraction.

“With the amount of cars going past every day it’s good advertising. But for us it’s not just the people driving the car it’s about the people they are related to, as everyone has elderly relative.”

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Life and Mobility Solutions shop
The spacious new showroom

Certainly the decision to open a large store in Melksham has worked out well for the store so far. It has meant that he has been able to stock a larger range of products and customers are prepared to travel 12-15 miles to check them out.

As Mark explains: “If you’ve got the right product in the store people are prepared travel a bit further to see it, which is what’s proving to happen here.”

There is space outside but there is also plenty of space inside for customers to zip around on a scooter or powerchair. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic there was a sense that customers felt more comfortable there also.

“It’s a nice space for people to use the equipment,” says Mark. “There are also areas where people can sit down and wait and it’s a more relaxed way of going about shopping for mobility equipment.”

Opportunity knocks

The first Life and Mobility Solutions opened in Frome in 2014. This was followed by a store in Warminster in 2016 and a third store in Shepton Mallett in 2017.

Mark explains that while they were looking for another property they didn’t have anywhere specific in mind – just a shop location that worked well with his other shops and would enable him and his staff to serve local customers well.

Then an opportunity arose. A building came onto the market in Melksham that was formerly used as a Mitsubishi car showroom.

Located on a main road next to a large supermarket no one could take on the whole building so Mark approached the owners about splitting it.

Fortunately the owners agreed to split it and it was agreed that Life and Mobility Solutions would take over the showroom part. With its airy feel and high ceilings it was “the nice part of the building”. The area of the building that was used for the car workshop has since been sold to another company.

This fourth Life and Mobility Solutions store opened in March 2021. As with the other Life and Mobility Solutions stores Mark wanted the new store to have an even range of products rather than have each store focusing on different areas. After all, he says, “you go into shop because it’s the most convenient as opposed to whether it has got the product you want.”

The only difference with the Melksham store, however, is that it’s so much bigger than the rest, so it has the space to stock more products.

Product expansion

Life and Mobility Solutions shop in Melksham
Daily living aids and accessories

The showroom offers an extensive range of mobility scooters, powerchairs, adjustable beds, rise and recline chairs and wheelchairs which are all on display for customers to try.

The store also stocks a range of smaller essential mobility aids with an emphasis on being able to give customers more choice of mobility products than an average mobility shop would be able to do.

There is a “care room” with a rota bed for occupational therapists to make use of during the day and to complement this, the store has been bringing in more specialist occupational therapy equipment, such as the Rollz Motion Rhythm rollator, that it wouldn’t have the space for in a high street shop.

As Mark explains: “You’re not going to sell one every week but OTs will appreciate that there are products in the store that they can come and show customers.”

The store has recently done a tie-up with Invacare for prescription powerchairs, and the showroom also features the full range of TGA scooters, as well as other brands of scooters.

There is plenty of local competition in the area but Mark states that he only puts products on his website that are in stock.

“A lot of companies don’t,” he says. “They put everything on their website that’s on the marketplace today which can be frustrating for the customer.”

Mark is personally not in favour of selling mobility products online. “We think it’s nonsense that someone who is blind and deaf can go and buy a mobility scooter online.

“We are seeing people coming back from the websites and into bricks and mortar. They’re getting their fingers burnt with bedroom bandits who are sitting there dropshipping everything and they don’t look after the customer.”

Mark adds: “The good suppliers are looking after bricks and mortar companies better than online companies who aren’t interested in offering customer service and back-up.”

The business model that online sellers use of offering cheaper products doesn’t work if suppliers haven’t got any stock. “And lets face it, there isn’t a supplier on the market who isn’t having supply issues at the moment.”

Life and Mobility Solutions scooters
Mobility scooters at the new Life and Mobility Solutions showroom

Keeping customers happy

The good thing to come about from the COVID-19 pandemic is finding out who are the good suppliers. Mark prefers to work with suppliers who communicate well about stock availability and keep him in the loop so that he can in turn be open with his customers.

For Mark, what gives him the most satisfaction is knowing that he and his team of staff are offering excellent customer service. “I want the customer to come into the shop and get the right product for them. Customers who are trying to buy cheaper stuff online and ask you to price match with Amazon are probably never going to be our customer anyway!”

Looking ahead, Mark is planning to expand the store portfolio for Life and Mobility Solutions further. He will be sticking to the South West as it is easier for his team to meet his customers’ needs for servicing and delivery that way.

He is also busy recruiting for more staff as his stores are becoming “busier and busier.”

Supply issues aside, the mobility sector is doing well at the moment and Mark finds that reassuring. “Everyone I talk to in business seems to be saying the same thing. I enjoy hearing that everybody else is doing okay as that tells you that as a country we’re all going in the right direction.”

Life and Mobility Solutions
The spacious showroom in Melksham can accommodate adjustable beds as well as rise and recline chairs
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We respect your privacy McIvorNewsroomRetailer NewsRetailer SpotlightTrade FocusTrade Newsaccess,Life and Mobility Solutions,Melksham,Mobility,Retailer,spotlightThe fourth Life and Mobility Solutions showroom opened in Wiltshire recently, boasting high visibility on a busy road and a spacious interior. THIIS chats to the store’s owner, Mark Cawthra, about the new store and how he gets the most satisfaction from finding the right products for his customers… It’s...News, views & products for mobility, access and independent living professionals