Trade thoughts: What will the long-term impact of the pandemic on the mobility sector?
With such uncertainty on a day-to-day basis, considering what will happen tomorrow is tough enough, let alone in the years to come as the world adjusts to a new norm.
Once the pandemic has passed however, one thing is for certain: The post-pandemic world will likely be very different from the world we knew before.
In April, THIIS asked five retail experts to share what changes may occur in the mobility market as a result of the virus, be it an acceleration to internet-shopping as customers are forced online whilst self-isolating or a bigger focus on liquidity to sure up cash flow in the event the unthinkable happens again.
All insights were submitted to THIIS in April 2020…
Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of TPG DisableAids
“In these really difficult times, with significant levels of people struck down by the COVID-19 virus and, tragically, many of our target market hit harder than most due to their vulnerability, there is no doubt that an impact will be felt on the future of the mobility industry.
“My thoughts are that having spent such a long time in isolation mode, many will value the ability to socially gather and network with others far higher than previously. To anyone with a mobility impairment, that is likely to heighten their resolve to get mobile and integrate sooner rather than later. For that reason, I believe the personal mobility market will bounce back stronger than ever and it is then down to the ability of the individual business to make the most of that refreshed marketplace.
“Selling the dream of independence, mobility and social wellbeing will be as soft as it has ever been; it is going to be the time when regulations made need to be addressed or at the very least a promotion of ethical organisations that adhere to the correct assessment processes such as BHTA to avoid exploitation by those that will see it as a soft touch.”
Mike Williams, Managing Director of Ableworld
“The whole country will change in various ways. A lot of companies have closed their doors and I presume some of them will close forever with this pandemic being the final straw of many other issues for them (not just in our industry).
“Everyone has learnt lessons so will alter some of their practices. As well as amending practices and ensuring we are flexible in our approach to supporting communities, it has highlighted some issues to us and how we can amend them in future, along with cutting future costs. Our FD reminded me that’s its times like these when you know who your friends are, inside and outside your company.
“All businesses will have thoughts on future cashflow. We mostly have not used borrowing to fund our business, apart from one mortgage/property loan. Yes, a relationship with the bank to ensure funds were available if the snow came down etc. Most businesses will need funding in these times and may not be able to even think of better funding for a while whilst re-paying “coronavirus loans” whilst others will link up to VCs to give them the cash to carry on. I think you can plan for everyday business challenges but I’m sure most won’t plan for a repeat of present times.
“In the main though, the retailers that were changing the industry will carry on doing so which will create a more professional overall industry.”
Elaine Ferguson, Mobility Services Manager of Fortuna Mobility
“In the short term, traditional mobility sales have seen and will continue to see a decline as a result of the pandemic and lockdown. This decline will undoubtedly mean we’ll see a reduction in the number of mobility retailers in the marketplace and the ones that survive will tend to be larger operations.
“Retailers who want to ensure success for the future need to be able and willing to adapt quickly. Therefore, they should turn their focus to cash liquidity in order to diversify their range of products and expertise in other areas – like some of the innovative and transforming technology that is now available in our marketplace. Additionally, they could look at disposable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other health-related products like thermometers. This will assist with the pressure on care homes and families. Contactless deliveries and remote consultations and assessments are an obvious addition to our services.
“We all know internet sales have been increasing, even pre-pandemic, and I’m sure this will continue. Although the internet provides an easy fix to a lot of basic problems, it does not solve the problems for a large segment of our customer base with more complex needs who are now more at risk than ever. Mobility retailers who are specialists in products and services that focus on pressure relief, posture and positioning will be very much in demand in the months and years ahead.”
Karen Sheppard, Managing Director of People First Mobility
“The actual impacts of COVID-19 are unknown and I don’t think anyone can predict what will happen. I don’t think mobility will be the same for a while but nowhere will.
“No income, most customers on self-isolation for 12 weeks and for those in holiday towns, holiday parks closed, entertainment venues closed. Will the towns ever recover? Many businesses will shut, some that do reopen will be in so much debt that further closures will occur.
“Business Insurance that includes business interruption, including for a virus within 20 miles of your store, will be a huge blow for many who have been told the insurance will not cover the pandemic. Why should we have the protection of insurance for providers to just release a statement after the event to say ‘no, you are not covered’.
“In a couple of years, there will be claims like PPI where they will say, ‘did your insurer not payout during the COVID 19 pandemic, claim now’.
“Those who are strong enough to survive now will still have a long way to go to recover as social distancing may be in place for many months yet. How will that work when demonstrating a scooter?”
Dominic Goldsmith, Director of Style Mobility
“It all depends on the individual attitude and drive of the person leading the company and I can only comment fairly on my own opinions and attitude to the crisis.
“I always try my very best to look at things in a positive light, as a true sales director it’s the only way! I will explain as follows…
- The majority of our customers rely on benefits or a pension and this won’t stop. They also will accumulate this money and will absolutely make the most of it when this is over
- We will not miss the whole season, be proactive. If you need it or want it, go out and get it! Markets, shopping malls, leaflet dropping, online, the list is endless!
- Everyone is in the same boat! Your competition can’t work either!
- Take advantage of the grants available to help you, including holidays from creditors
- Reassure your team, do the best for them to ensure they are there when you can re-open
“Either that or quite frankly, sit there in your own self-pity and do nothing!
“Living on the East Coast, I walked to a park the other day for my daily exercise with my family and saw a naval memorial with around 4000 names of young men that went to sea from our town and never returned during the six-year conflict; young lads that were never to see their families again! All we have to do is stay at home for a bit!”https://thiis.co.uk/trade-thoughts-what-will-the-long-term-impact-of-the-pandemic-on-the-mobility-sector/https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/open-shop-sign-window.jpg?fit=900%2C550&ssl=1https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/open-shop-sign-window.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1Analysis & InsightsNewsroomRetailer NewsTrade NewsTrade ThoughtsAbleworld,Alastiar Gibbs,cash flow,coronavirus,COVID-19,Dominic Goldsmith,Elaine Ferguson,Fortuna Mobility,insurance,Internet,Karen Sheppard,loans,lockdown,Mike Williams,pandemic,People First Mobility,PPE,Style Mobility,TPG DisableAidsWith such uncertainty on a day-to-day basis, considering what will happen tomorrow is tough enough, let alone in the years to come as the world adjusts to a new norm.Once the pandemic has passed however, one thing is for certain: The post-pandemic world will likely be very different from the world...Calvin BarnettCalvin Barnettcalvin@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine