Trade talk: Q&A with Darren Macey, Business Development Manager of Lifestyle and Mobility
2020 has been a difficult year for many in the sector but for Lifestyle and Mobility, the last 12 months have been marked by growth.
Taking over a new store just weeks before the first lockdown in March, the company decided to go one better and acquire another store just days before the second lockdown.
Darren Macey, Business Development Manager for the growing regional retail player, discussed its latest purchase of Harlow Mobility.
THIIS: How did the acquisition come about?
Darren: “It’s no secret that we’ve been wanting to get into Harlow for years now. We started the process by taking on a huge unit in Terminus Street. We battled through the lease over an eight-month period and it felt like there was just barrier after barrier being thrown in our way – including high amounts of asbestos.
“During this period, David Davison, the former proprietor of 1st Call Mobility, put Harlow Mobility up for sale. We then approached David, which, can you believe, was almost two years ago now!
“I’m sure a lot of people will think we are absolutely mad, especially as we had the news of another lockdown before we completed.” Darren Macey
“After some negotiations we almost had a deal done but for one reason or another, we decided to carry on proceeding with the Terminus Street site as we had already invested so much time and effort into.
“We decided to pull out of the Terminus Street site at the last minute after nearly a whole year of going forward with it. When something isn’t right, it’s just not right! At this time, however, David had also taken his business off the market.
“In late October, I was talking to Aaron [Sverdloff] on the phone about business. I don’t know why but I said to him: ‘Shall I give David a call to see if he’s interested in selling’. Sure enough, we had a great conversation and set up a meeting… two weeks later the deal was done and we completed the deal on the 2nd November.”
THIIS: Why Harlow Mobility?
Darren: “Harlow Mobility was a great fit for us, as we knew we could add our business model within theirs. Adding our Motability accreditation is going to be great as we know this area hasn’t been tapped into which can only be a positive thing for us.”
THIIS: With so much uncertainty in the industry, why did you feel now was the right time to acquire Harlow Mobility?
“I’m sure a lot of people will think we are absolutely mad, especially as we had the news of another lockdown before we completed. We are super positive people, though. We actually feel this new lockdown will give us the time we need to make some changes. We also came out of the last lockdown feeling super positive and hit record sale figures.”
THIIS: You mention you will make changes to the Harlow Store – what kind of changes do you have in mind?
Darren: “The store is located in a shopping centre so it already fits within our business model nicely. We shall be adding new ranges such as active wheelchairs, complex powerchairs and Motability.
“While David has built a really solid brand within Harlow, we shall probably have a re-launch and change the name to the Lifestyle & Mobility brand. This won’t be right away as we are going through a transition process and want the timing to be right in order to make it an effective re-launch.”
THIIS: What does the acquisition mean for Harlow Mobility’s existing staff?
Darren: “The biggest asset that Harlow Mobility have is its staff. We all know the key to any successful business is its team so we are delighted to have grown our team by four.
“Again, we shall use the lockdown as an opportunity to start the training process on our active user wheelchair and powerchair ranges.”
THIIS: How does this acquisition fit into Lifestyle and Mobility’s wider retail ambitions?
Darren: “This is a perfect location with our other stores in Essex and Hertfordshire. It bridges that gap geographically. The other stores will be able to support Harlow. We always wanted to become stronger in a region and not try to take on too much
“It’s about getting the balance right so we can manage the portfolio and make sure we maintain our high standards of customer service and knowledge on specialist products. This, again, is why it was essential that we TUPE’d the staff across in the new Harlow store.”
THIIS: With the takeover of Harlow Mobility, what does that take your store portfolio up to now?
Darren: “We now have five stores and the use of an assessment centre which we use in collaboration with 360 Wheelchairs.”
THIIS: What is it about the Lifestyle and Mobility model that is enabling it to grow through the COVID-19 pandemic?
Darren: “We don’t want to give away all our secrets but at the heart of it is hard work, sheer determination to succeed and the ability to adapt.”
THIIS: Do you have any more acquisition targets on the horizon or are you open to offers?
Darren: “We certainly aren’t selling unless someone comes to us with a crazy offer that we couldn’t refuse! Our goal is to keep growing and we are continuing to re-invest every penny back into the company. We don’t have any more acquisition planned but, of course, are always looking out for new opportunities.”
THIIS: As we round off 2020, what does the near future hold for Lifestyle and Mobility?
Darren: “We are super proud of what we are achieving at the moment and we honestly believe we have the right business model to move forward. We have more exciting plans that we are working on but we don’t want to give too much away just yet.
“I can say, one of our plans is to move the Bournemouth store to a larger location. We’ve just moved our Potters Bar Specialist Centre to Welwyn Garden City as well. It’s a much larger site and we are currently fitting it out.
“There is more to come in 2021 so, as always, watch this space!”https://thiis.co.uk/trade-talk-qa-with-darren-macey-business-development-manager-of-lifestyle-and-mobility/https://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Lifestyle-Mobility-sign-new-store.jpghttps://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Lifestyle-Mobility-sign-new-store-150x150.jpgAnalysis & InsightsMergers & AcquisitionsNewsroomRetailer NewsTrade NewsTrade Talk1st Call Mobility,Aaron Sverdloff,acquisition,Darren Macey,David Davidson,Harlow Mobility,lifestyle and mobility,Trade talk2020 has been a difficult year for many in the sector but for Lifestyle and Mobility, the last 12 months have been marked by growth. Taking over a new store just weeks before the first lockdown in March, the company decided to go one better and acquire another store just...Calvin BarnettCalvin Barnettcalvin@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine