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Upbeat retail outlook for scooters, wheelchairs

Upbeat retail outlook for scooters, wheelchairs

The potential for the scooter and wheelchair sector is strong and continues to grow, manufacturers in the field say. The aging population is constantly increasing, and more seniors and consumers overall want products that go above Medicare allowables. Pent-up demand in the wake of the pandemic is also a factor. 

“The current demand for mobility products continues to be strong across all categories,” said Jeff Distasio, vice president of sales for Duryea, Pa.-based Pride Mobility. “We look for those trends to continue for the foreseeable future as more consumers come into the market. “Further, we are seeing that consumers with older equipment are looking to trade up to a newer model as their needs and requirements change. Today’s consumers do their research and have much higher expectations regarding quality and aesthetics. We continue to develop products with that in mind to not only meet but exceed those expectations.” 

Vanessa Saltmarsh, chief revenue officer of Waukee, Iowa-based Journey Health & Lifestyle, points out that the senior consumer market is still in its infancy. 

“Over the next five to 10 years, the projected U.S. population aged 65 and up is going to outpace the overall population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” she said. “These senior-aged consumers are focused on aesthetics, lifestyle and features – they are no longer satisfied with Medicare allowable equipment. Many seniors have access to disposable income, and they are willing to spend it on products that enrich their lives and allow them to live actively and with independence.” 

Larry Jackson, president of Fresno, Calif.-based Sunrise Medical’s North America operations, adds that the three-year pandemic has caused a reserve of pent-up demand from consumers. 

“The industry experienced pent-up demand due to the impact of the pandemic,” he said. “After clinics reopened, there was a backlog in scheduling appointments, leading to delayed assessments and wheelchair prescriptions. Also, with the gradual resolution of supply chain challenges in the post-pandemic period, more chairs are now being delivered on time.”  

Coverage expansion 

New Medicare coverage for seat elevation systems on Group 3 and other power chairs also plays a role in the consumer landscape, said Audra Watt, vice president of marketing for Lebanon, Tenn.-based Permobil Americas. 

“With the CMS announcement, everything has changed,” she said. “Providers, clinicians and end users have eagerly awaited this decision before purchasing their next chair, hoping to benefit from seat elevation. We expect demand for it to increase, enabling more individuals to safely perform transfers and participate in daily activities with their new seat elevation systems.” 

Finding opportunities 

There are several options available to providers looking to expand their commercial mobility businesses, market specialists say. 

“It’s a story that has been touted for a while – providers need to diversify away from payer-based products to include cash and sell-up items that consumers not only want but are willing to purchase outright,” Saltmarsh said.  

Customized products tailored to individual needs are a sure way to attract consumer interest and give providers a market advantage, Jackson said. 

“As a result, the products are not typically available off the shelf at retail stores,” he said. “Instead, Sunrise Medical works closely with health care professionals, clinicians and suppliers to assess and prescribe the most suitable mobility solutions for clients.” 

Adding entirely new categories, as well as improving and expanding on options like lightweight travel features, are bringing a host of potential new consumers into the market, Distasio said, adding that utilizing the full spectrum of promotional tools will boost awareness among the clientele. 

“Design and implementation of a strong social media campaign, advertising locally and offering best-in-class service will set providers apart,” he said. “Providing outstanding service will go a long way to not only keeping the customer coming back for more items, but the positive feedback and word of mouth will lead to long-term sustainable success.” 

Gauging demand 

Understanding the nature of what customers want is key to furnishing products and services that match their desires. More sophisticated and selective than their predecessors, today’s consumers are more in tune with quality and technology, Watt said.  

“Consumers are now prioritizing more sustainable and durable assistive technology that allows them to engage with their communities, rather than worrying about frequent maintenance or motor failures,” she said. “With more real-world data from repair registries coming to light, they will be empowered to choose products that require less maintenance and deliver more long-term value.” 

Likewise, Saltmarsh maintains that modern seniors “are seeking premium, innovative, feature-rich products that work with their active lifestyle. So, we focus on features that include high-end materials, sleek design, with little to no assembly and the ability to be transported easily. They want mobility products that are as lightweight as possible, and we focus on materials and features like quick frame detach to reach this goal.”


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