- Premises Based
- B2B, B2C
Ableworld provides products and services for the growing elderly and disabled market through its chain of nationwide retail stores. In our large one-stop stores, well trained staff help customers to purchase items such as mobility scooters, rise-and-recline chairs, adjustable beds, wheelchairs, stairlifts and home and personal aids specially designed to help people live more comfortable and active lives.
Ableworld is a growing organisation. Found in 2001 we now have stores across the UK in England, Scotland and Wales. The company started franchising in 2008 after having developed a chain of company-owned stores. Approximately half the network is franchised and this is expected to increase over the next few years as we take advantage of the highly beneficial demographic and economic factors in this growing retail sector.
Ableworld’s comprehensive eight week training programme covers all areas of the business, It is available for one or two people and franchisees are trained on products, systems, engineering (for the stairlift side of the business) as well as internal and external aspects of running the business and a store. Wherever possible the training is conducted by experienced Ableworld managers in the real world and actual working environment.
Franchisees run a mobility store that is open to the public during normal retail hours. The job is essentially that of a specialist retailer; helping customers find the right product for their needs. Usually a store has three people, one of them a stairlift engineer who quotes, fits and maintains stairlifts. This role can be done by the franchisor themselves or an employee, either way full training is given.
Before joining Ableworld, Billy and Robert were service engineers for hospital and care home equipment. They realised there was an ever growing need for products that help people live more comfortable and independent lives at home rather than in care. They looked for an opportunity to get involved in the sector. They quickly found Ableworld and investigated the franchise opportunity. Convinced franchising would give them a much better chance of success than going at it alone, they bought an established Ableworld store not far from Edinburgh in 2019.
“The support we’ve had right from the beginning has been excellent. Head Office training covered every aspect of setting up and running our business and we also went out in the field shadowing the engineers which led to us gaining the required qualification to carry out stairlift installations and repairs ourselves. Neither of us were form a retail background, so we knew we had a lot to learn. By the time we opened the doors though, we were very confident we would make a huge success of it – and it’s been great! It’s been hard work, but incredibly rewarding from both a business and personal perspective. Knowing that we are building a business that truly makes a positive difference to people’s lives every day is great feeling.” Billy Hutchinson.
One year after opening their mobility store in Southampton one of the directors, Jeff Newman, discussed how things were going.
Jeff, whose previous career had been as a milkman, recognised that many of his previous customers were also potential purchasers of mobility equipment. He teamed up with his son, Steven and his business partner, Chris and together they purchased an Ableworld franchise for the Southampton region. A suitable property was located locally and trading commenced at the end of May in 2014.
Jeff reflected on his thoughts at the time. “Having had daily contact with elderly and disabled customers in my previous occupation, I witnessed several fall injuries and mobility complaints,” he said. “With our store having good parking and being on several main bus routes I believed our highly visible and accessible superstore on Portsmouth Road, opposite the bus station, would fill a gap in the market and serve as a welcome benefit to the community.”
So, one year later how does Jeff feel the enterprise has gone? “It has met all our expectations – especially the satisfaction we get from providing the right products for our customers”.
Numbers-wise, Jeff and the team have consistently hit and beaten budget and have proved that their initial thoughts about the viability of having a modern one-stop mobility store in Southampton were correct.
Of course there have been challenges – getting the marketing mix right has been one of the big ones – but with the help of franchisor’s marketing team Jeff feels that they now have a much better grasp on where their marketing budget is best spent.
In fact an increasing amount of Southampton’s turnover is repeat business and the store has received numerous testimonials from satisfied customers which has led to word of mouth recommendations. Another good source of business has been from local and passing trade.
And what about the future? After a successful first year Jeff sees the second as one of consolidation. “We have looked at moving into other areas like the specialist side of the business but we would like to concentrate on continuing to build on our current customer base.”
With average franchise turnover across the network showing an almost 30% increase on the previous year, there is plenty for Jeff and the team to keep them occupied!