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With COVID-19 restrictions and shipping delays looking set to continue into 2022. This month, THIIS asked retailers from the mobility industry to give their forecasts for what 2022 might hold for the industry.

All thoughts were submitted to THIIS in January 2022…

Richard Holland Oakes, Managing Director of RecareRichard Recare

“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster two years; we have spent time re-organizing our position and re-structuring our strengths withing Recare. We have seen a swing of clients purchasing off the shelf products direct from the internet, the pandemic has brought this on as we can see more couriers running around day by day making deliveries straight to your door within hours.

“Recare have re-focused on its specialized market offering high end mobility solutions, specialized seating and pressure mapping coupled with the employment of a full time Mobility Seating Occupational Therapist. This has already given us the edge and will help to pave the way forward in 2022.

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“As with most dealers the last 6 months has had a huge impact on delivery off products from our suppliers, this in turn stops growth and investment short term as we plan our exit from the pandemic.

“I do feel looking at the entry level ‘mobility shop’ type of business is possibly finding it much harder than the more specialized dealers as explained above what hasn’t helped is in the increase of the product’s, smaller dealer margins, shipping costs, surcharges and longer lead times, and this will in affect your gross profit and confidence in your growth over the next few years.”

Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of TPG DisableAidsAlastair Gibbs TPG DisableAids MD

“If we thought 2021 was difficult I do not hold out much hope for the start of 2022. We are already starting to see stock shortages on the very basics of our trade and with the rocketing prices of raw materials and extremely difficult transport issues associated with both international and domestic freight, I can only see this getting worse before it gets better.

“We must remember that although the disabled equipment market is very important to us in the industry, it is only a very small part of the demand on the manufacturing resources of the world. When I hear tales of massive shortages for the motor industry and consider the size of their market by comparison, then our demands are, I am afraid, going to be someway down the list of priorities.

“Having just taken delivery of six new Ford vans that were ordered in February 2021 a 10 month order to delivery time, it makes me wonder how long scooters or wheelchairs might take in the future when the buying power of these manufacturers to get the raw materials required is insignificant compared to the buying power of Ford Motor Company.

“On a more simplistic view, I am not sure the customer expectations will be ready for these delays when we have become used to instant delivery from the likes of Amazon and being in the bricks and mortar frontline we will be the focus for the customers frustrations.”

Billy Finnie. Operations Manager at Mobility ScotlandBilly Finnie Mobility Scotland

“I forecast a very positive 2022 for the Mobility Sector, well, let me just qualify that a wee bit. I predicate a positive Q2, Q3 and Q4. Q1 will be somewhat rocky but hopefully we’ll begin to see a settling down affect, with supply chains recalibrating and gearing up to deliver value, quality and availability, manufacturing being able to source quality components to drive availability and improve lead times and shipping costs beginning to stabilise to ensure softer, affordable pricing.

“I would be as confident as the next optimist that this will happen and if the global economies can begin to reset, we will hopefully see more stability and continuity, if this happens then the future looks bright, very bright.

“My optimism is driven by the changes we have seen in people’s attitudes and buying motivations, they 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 (mobility products) and 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 preventative products. Mobility access, comfort and safety products have seen tremendous growth recently, this continued trend and decisiveness will ensure theirs and our prognosis is healthy.”

Carol Elliot, Manager, City MobilityCarol Elliot, Manager of City Mobility

“Scotland will become the first UK nation to legally require every home to have interlinked smoke alarms by February 2022.  The new law and others have come about because of the Grenfell fire in London in 2017, and it applies to all Scottish homes.

“As 2021 ends we have become aware that some Local Authorities and Housing Associations have introduced, or are looking at introducing, new Policies around the storage and charging (especially overnight) of Mobility Scooters and Powerchairs in socially rented accommodation on fire safety grounds.

“We have actively been working with The Highland Council Housing Policy Team so they have a greater understanding of the challenges our customers face in balancing their locality requirements with their mobility and communication needs.

“Recently two Highland Council staff members shadowed our Motability Assessor on a home visit and test drive, getting to try out equipment and seeing what the mix of challenges were and what would work for the customer within their Policy.

“The challenge is that customers may be put off by the paperwork in seeking the permissions needed. And that time will be wasted (remembering we can spend a whole day travelling to and conducting one assessment) for the Housing provider to then not give permission.  Permission can’t be sought in advance as the customer needs to know what equipment works for them first.

“The opportunity is for reputable retailers to become known for offering sound advice in line with local Policies on safe storage and charging when doing a home demo/assessment.  And in increasing regular servicing and maintenance work, and in some cases, Portable Appliance Testing.

“Another topic might be the introduction of new regulations by the Department of Transport on mobility equipment use (following the recently consultation led by Driving Mobility on their behalf) – but I’m assuming someone else would pick that up or it’s a bigger article for another day.”

Mike Williams, Managing Director of AbleworldTrade talk - Mike Williams Ableworld head shot

“I’m sure we were all hoping for a positive way forward with Covid diminished or at a very low level, however it looks like more of the same.

“As with last year we have built up stocks ready for the January Sale and have an average of nearly £150,000 cost per store to ensure the stores have a good chance of hitting budgets and we can look after our Customer base, after all they are the ones that rely on us.

“It’s nice to see a few new products coming through which always livens up ranges and of course our Marketing message.

“The challenges, of course, are the ongoing supply issues, luckily some of the costs seem to be stabilising and the view seems to be that containers may become easier & less expensive after the Chinese New Year. The vast majority of suppliers are working well with ourselves and we understand the issues and necessary price increases, that are never welcome. A couple unfortunately seem to be taking advantage of the situation which I believe will come back to bite them when sanity returns.

“However much more importantly is the wellbeing and enthusiasm of our staff. We have fantastic teams around the business and it’s never been more important than now to keep the teams together and enthusiastic. We are all in an industry of helping and caring for our vulnerable customers, so that is a great incentive to stay positive and keep going that extra mile.”

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We respect your privacy McIvorAnalysis & InsightsNewsroomTrade Thoughts2022,Ableworld,access,City Mobility,Forecast,Mobility,mobility scotland,Recare,TPG DisableAidsWith COVID-19 restrictions and shipping delays looking set to continue into 2022. This month, THIIS asked retailers from the mobility industry to give their forecasts for what 2022 might hold for the industry. All thoughts were submitted to THIIS in January 2022… Richard Holland Oakes, Managing Director of Recare “It has been...News, views & products for mobility, access and independent living professionals