A Cheshire-born mobility aid business is celebrating 20 years of helping vulnerable people after being set up to solve a personal struggle.
Mike Williams, now the managing director of Ableworld, had been searching for products to support his dad through everyday life with hearing and sight difficulties when he uncovered an important gap in the market.
Reflecting on the challenges he faced more than two decades ago, he said: “I couldn’t find anything suitable. The only stores out there at the time sold mobility scooters – no other aids.
“After a lot of thought and looking around, I realised there was no opportunity for people to look after their elderly relatives.”
That’s when Ableworld was born – a company which started life with a single store and has since grown into a UK empire that’s continuing to expand as it helps customers to live with confidence and independence.
Such is its long-running success, the business is currently celebrating its milestone 20th birthday and giving back to customers with one of its largest ever sales. Customers can currently benefit from discounts including up to £200 off scooters and 10% off wheelchairs and walkers.
Reflecting on Ableworld’s initial launch back in 2001, Mike said: “My first store was in Nantwich. I purchased an old Co-op store and redeveloped it.”
Mike has since developed the company in terms of the number of Ableworld stores, an online presence and the range of products available; making it increasingly easy for people to access and benefit from the services provided.
The selection of items in Ableworld stores, which currently has anniversary discounts applied across the range, now varies from pill boxes through to stairlifts as well as mobility scooters.
Explaining the ongoing journey of the business, Mike said: “In the first year, I bought three stores altogether. Now, including franchises, there are 36 Ableworld stores in the UK, with two more being opened this year in Queensferry and Blackpool.
“We also have a better and larger range now. We stock around 1,400 different lines of products, which is roughly double what we started with.
“The key to our success is keeping it simple. We trade as an everyday store – how people are used to shopping. We also work with the customer and help them to find the products they need.”
Looking to the future, Mike hopes continued progress will lead to “three or four new Ableworld stores every year” but the company’s Cheshire birthplace remains important to the managing director and his business.
He said: “The majority of our stores are in Cheshire, where we first started. I call Cheshire home after living in many different places, so it is special to me.”
Even the challenges faced by retailers during the past year or so due to the pandemic haven’t prevented Ableworld from finding new ways to be of importance and support the community.
The business remained open during lockdowns to keep providing customers with the mobility aids they needed, and also supplied essential products to care homes and health facilities.
Looking back on the unprecedented time, Mike said: “I am very proud of the people who work here.
“We have helped to support vulnerable people, staying open all the way through Covid, meaning we were able to get products out to the people who needed them.”
“Being able to support and help customers feels really good, and it brings me a great sense of satisfaction.”
Mike is also proud of the wider impact Ableworld has had on the mobility market, and the role it has played in preventing other customers from having the same struggles he faced when trying to help his father more than 20 years ago.
He said: “The growth has impacted everyone. Other companies have followed suit, meaning that because of what we offer, there is more choice for the customer.
“Working in an environment where you get to help people has had a big impact on myself and the staff.”