Amigo continues to develop dealer network

Thursday, January 31, 2002

BRIDGEPORT, Mi. - While Electric Mobility believes its best chance for success lies in selling direct to the consumer, Amigo Mobility International, a one-time proponent of selling direct, is sprinting in the opposite direction.

In December, Amigo, which ended its direct sales efforts three years ago, added five rep groups in 2001 to help boost its dealer business and planned to add two more last month.

"To do justice to our product lines, it would be cost prohibitive to put enough people on the street," said Frank Gorski, Amigo's director of sales.

Electric Mobility announced late last year (HME News Jan. 15, 2002) that it would no longer sell its popular Rascal scooter and flagship Turnabout power wheelchair through dealers. EM President Michael Flowers said the company lost money selling the products through dealers and will now sell them direct to the consumer.

"We run our operation pretty thin so we may not have to turn the same bottom line that an Electric Mobility needs to," Gorski said. "For what we need and do at Amigo, (dealers) have been a nice avenue for us to move our products."

Gorski acknowledged that selling direct often produces greater profit margins because it cuts out the middle man. But by abandoning direct sales and working through dealers, Amigo gets better market coverage and works with professionals who understand local insurance requirements and who have strong community relationships. Amigo makes up in volume what it loses in margin. Additionally, consumers need one-on-one evaluations, which dealers provide, say Amigo officials.

(At a previous job, Gorski worked for a company that sold patient monitors. The manufacturer that produced the monitors eventually decided it could do better selling direct. "They fell on their face because we forged the relationships," Gorski said. "It wasn't just the product but the one-on-one relationships that were driving it.")

Amigo opened for business in 1968 and over the years sold its products - like EM - through dealers and direct to the consumer. And like Electric Mobility, Amigo encountered the same animosity and resistance from dealers who didn't want to buy products from a manufacturer they might also be competing against.

"That became an obstacle and the main reason we wanted to emphasize that we were not going to be selling direct," said Sara Kristal-Brandon, director of Amigo's manufacturer rep division. "Our sole direction is going to be on supporting the dealer." HME