Mobility retailer Ableworld is successfully managing to both buck and follow key trends in its sector
Investing in a franchise is a big decision and one that requires analysis and thought.
Part of the analysis in buying a franchise is looking at the market you are entering. Is it growing? Is it saturated? Will it be around in years to come or is it a temporary fad?
In this article I would like to consider two trends affecting the retail mobility market at the moment: the trend towards online shopping and the demographic trend of an ageing population.
There is no doubt that online shopping has grown over the last few years. It now represents approximately 20 per cent of retail sales, which means, of course, that 80 per cent of sales are still made in traditional bricks and mortar stores.
However, the trend towards online shopping is showing signs of slowing down.
Figures released by Capgemini IMRG show that UK online retail sales growth hit an all time low of just 3.6 per cent year on year in December, as the industry experienced a tough Christmas trading period to end a challenging second half of the year.
Online spending in December decreased 15 per cent month on month compared to November.
By contrast, Ableworld’s predominantly store-based retail network experienced a 23.5 per cent like for like increase over the six-week Christmas and New Year trading period. So what is driving Ableworld to buck the trend of online shopping?
We have found that people, especially Ableworld’s core customers, increasingly value the experience of shopping for what they need (eg, mobility scooters, specialist furniture, wheelchairs and home aids) in modern one-stop stores where they can try out the equipment and get advice from well trained and friendly staff.
That isn’t to say Ableworld doesn’t sell some products online. It does, but where a personal assessment is needed the company’s ethical policy is to make the sale in store.
The trend towards convenience shopping is likely to continue and the most successful retailers will be those who adopt the multichannel options that best suit their customers.
For Ableworld, this means some old fashioned personal service in well stocked stores backed up with an online presence, rather than the other way round.
The other important market trend is the unstoppable demographic shift towards an increasingly older population.
There are currently more than 15 million people in the UK aged 60 and over - Ableworld’s core customers. By 2030, this is predicted to rise to over 20 million.
As the population ages, more people will need the products and services Ableworld offers. Products like stairlifts, bathing aids, powerchairs and the like.
By investing in a sector that is growing, you are following a foreseeable trend that reduces the risk of setting up in business and increases the opportunities for success, both now and in the future.
Success in business can come from following a trend or bucking the trend. Ableworld is doing both and as the UK’s largest mobility retailer you could argue the company is doing it very successfully.