We were rather surprised last week to see Countdown presenter, Rachel Riley, in a gleaming gold mobility scooter. We assumed that Channel 4′s premier mathematician hadn’t suddenly decided that she had a need for a mobility aid (her high heels were something of a giveaway) but was merely posing for some kind of promotion. What we couldn’t work out was why she, of all people, would have been chosen to model mobility equipment. Nothing against her, but why, with so many high profile less able bodied people around, would a spritely, young, ex-Strictly Come Dancing contestant be the go-to person for showing off new mobility wares?
Well, it turned out that she was attending the opening of Lloyds Pharmacy’s high street Betterlife store in Leeds – a new and all too rare shop which specialises in showcasing a range of new mobility products – because Betterlife Countdown. Riley had been asked along to bring some glitz to the grand opening, where she tried out – and was very nearly ‘out-glitzed’ by – a golden mobility scooter, a very bling Swarovski bedazzled crutch and many other products and features from the new shop. She may not be less able but she was able to bring an element of publicity and pizzazz to proceedings, which can only be a good thing because this may be a shop worth taking notice of.
Although the majority of the Betterlife range is a little more functional than the golden scooter (OK, their products actually often border on dull), it’s great to see a shop being opened where you can actually test mobility products before buying them. We’ve found that there is an ongoing problem of a lack of try before you buy options in the mobility world, with less able shoppers being forced to shop online only. This can in turn lead to purchased products not being as expected or even not fit for the purpose. It was something that our BBS Interest Panel survey found to be one of the main a causes of frustration for many less able bodied people looking to purchase mobility equipment.
In contrast, this new Betterlife store represents one of a small number and probably the finest place where you can actually see and try out mobility products. Comprising 3,229 square feet of retail space and with hundreds of product lines on display, it allows people to really get to know the items in the Betterlife range. Products are even demonstrated within in-room sets which customers can test and play in, from a fully furnished bedroom and bathroom to a multi-surface track to test mobility scooters and even a car boot to check the ease of loading products into vehicles. It’s refreshing to see a new try before you buy option, with the shop moving from online to high street, especially at a time when most other shops are going in the opposite direction.
On a less positive note, we have to say again that, despite the store opening showing off the golden scooter and bling walking sticks, there are not actually very many stylish products in the Betterlife range at the moment. However, the Leeds store represents a good model on which to base future mobility outlets and product ranges. It also comes at a particularly pertinent time, hot on the heels of recent new figures released by the DWP, including the estimate that the disabled market is now worth £212 billion per year, up from £80 billion!
Hopefully, Betterlife is an example of things to come. This would seem to be the plans of the people running the company. Cormac Tobin, managing director of Celesio UK, the company of which Betterlife from LloydsPharmacy is a part, said recently that ”our vision is to make our products tangibly accessible to all across the UK, and the Yorkshire store is an important step towards providing a spread of locations for customers to find them.” It’s a vision which can all share, we just hope that the product catalogue can become a little trendier as well!
To our knowledge, in spite of its rather functional product selection, this may well be the best place for people who want to try before you buy?