Lifestyle puts lightweight chair trend ‘in the bag’

Monday, January 31, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A manufacturer of a new, 16-pound wheelchair that fits in a bag like a camp chair is hopeful that the drive toward smaller, lighter mobility products will be a boon for his trendy new entry.
The Mini Travel Chair weighs only 16 pounds and fits in a carrying bag.

Lifestyle Mobility showed its Mini Travel Chair at Medtrade last fall and plans to start selling it to dealers for $99 by Medtrade Spring. Made of T6 aluminum, the transport chair features typical eight-inch castor wheels and folds up into a bag.

“A user can stick it in many different places, behind the front seat of the vehicle, in the trunk, in the trunk even if they’ve already got a scooter in the trunk,” said Darrin Horst, president of Lifestyle.

The Mini Travel Chair’s competitors in the market are stainless steel transport chairs that weigh about seven pounds more and aluminum chairs with fold-down backs that weigh just a few pounds more.

Although retailers are bound to like the weight, at least one retailer said he’ll need to be sold on aluminum.

“I’m not completely enamored with aluminum chairs,” said Kevin Robison, a DME specialist at Knueppel Healthcare in Milwaukee. “They can be brittle and the welds tend to have mishaps. I still go with a stainless steel chair. It’s a 5 pound weight difference, but to me, that’s not really a quantum leap.”

Horst said the principal design challenge in the development of the Mini Travel Chair answers that reservation.

“The challenge was coming up with a product that was durable enough for this market,” said Horst. “Anyone can make something lightweight, but you have to make it durable. We didn’t want something that would fail after a few months.”

Horst is no stranger to the mobility market. Although best known as a manufacturer of rollators, Lifestyle introduced the ultra-lightweight scooter to the market several years ago, and then watched other companies with more marketing clout make that sector flourish.

Horst believes the patents on the Mini Travel Chair will preclude the loss of a retail sales boom in collapsible transport chairs.