The growth of retail features in the mobility market
by Kristin Easterling
March 14, 2019
GoldenGolden Buzzaround LT

Manufacturers report that today’s consumers are buying more retail scooters. According to Renae Storie, senior director at Pride Mobility Products (Pride)—a manufacturer of power wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and lift recliners—the reasons are varied: lack of qualification under insurance; wanting additional features not included under insurance, etc. Storie told HomeCare that consumers often want to avoid the hassle of insurance paperwork altogether, so they choose to go the cash product route instead.

With increasing interest from the baby boomer demographic, the scooter corner of the mobility market offers a unique opportunity to HME suppliers and business owners. According to Storie, “Baby boomers tend to have more disposable income, which is promising for retail scooter sales. Further, the many scooter options now available to consumers go well beyond those previously offered. What have remained the same are the expectations of the consumer to have a product that is safe, reliable, requires fewer visits for service and meets the needs of his or her lifestyle.”

When it comes to scooter spending, C.J. Copley, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Golden Technologies (Golden), said, “It’s important to recognize that retail-related scooter purchases are on the rise.” According to Copley, Medicare benefits fall short of getting customers a solution that fully meets their needs and allows them the quality of mobility they deserve. “Retailers should invest in offering a wide range of options for those customers who are looking to make these purchases,” he said.

For consumers choosing a cash product, accessories play a large part in making the scooter feel less medical. “They are more of a vehicle and less of a device,” said Ryan Edwards, product manager, power mobility at Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare (Drive). Storage bags, phone chargers, and changeable color shrouds personalize scooters. In addition, accessories like cane holders, crutch holders, oxygen-tank holders, and baskets make transporting medical supplies easier. Storie said, “For providers, accessories allow them to improve the shopping experience and serve as an additional source of revenue.”

The Medicare benefit falls short of getting a customer something to fully meet their needs and allow them the quality of mobility they deserve. Retailers should invest in offering a wide range of options for customers.
C.J. Copley, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Golden Technologies

The scooter rental market is a strong revenue stream for providers looking to grow their reach. Beyond the standard travel and vacation verticals, Storie said providers can also reach customers with injuries who may only need a scooter for a short time, and do not wish to be tied down to crutches, wheelchairs or rollators. Copley has heard similar feedback, saying, “We hear that providers charge as much as $50 per day, per scooter. A rental version of the Companion scooter with a bumper kit from Golden rented for only three and a half weeks could be paid for. If providers rented it every week for a year, the return on investment would be approximately $18,500 per scooter.”

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Another way to score in scooters is to consider taking the advertising route. According to Edwards, “Scooters [rentals] are free advertising while a user is operating it. If the user likes the scooter, it could lead to a possible sale. Offering an option for the user to purchase the product can bring in extra sales.” He added, “Providers need to go where the potential customers are and make them aware of where they can rent a scooter. Advertising throughout these areas and even on the scooters themselves can increase [brand] awareness.”

To meet the growing mobility needs of consumers, scooter manufacturers have made improvements to battery technology. “Users want to be able to travel with their scooter with no issues. Therefore, ensuring they are FAA compliant is critical,” said Edwards. “Newer scooter designs are lighter and get more mileage, which fits today’s market perfectly."

Copley added, “The majority of the fault codes [a series of flashes and sounds that indicate a problem with the scooter] on our scooters give important battery-saving directives, which are important for proper care and help the consumer get the most life and range from their battery.”

For instance, Pride offers a choice of either sealed lead-acid batteries or lithium ion batteries on the Jazzy Folding scooter. Lithium-ion batteries are much lighter, allow for a greater range per charge and last longer than sealed lead acid batteries. With lithium-ion batteries, usually only one battery is required as opposed to two.

“[Scooters today] are more customizable, allow consumers the freedom to continue their active lifestyle, and unique styles and functionality have expanded the use of scooters well outside the traditional market of the past,” said Storie. As consumers seek better mobility options, and the market grows, savvy providers can increase revenue streams with rental and accessory options.

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