Hourglass OT

I can scarcely believe it, but we’re now well into 2020, which feels dangerously futuristic.

And before we know it, 2025 will be here, then 2030, and… well, you get the gist.

One of the things I’ve realised over the years is that time moves much faster than our ability to adapt to change and the more that we can pre-empt the way the market moves, the better equipped we are to continue to be relevant.

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For you, this means having a clear idea of what the health, mobility and social care landscape will look like five years from now.

Because when you do, you’ll be able to provide products and services that meet the needs of people in that era and prevent yourself from becoming another Blockbuster, Mothercare or Woolworths.

I’ve jotted down a few thoughts about where I think things are going – I hope these help you to make the right decisions about where your focus will be over the next five years:

The ever-increasing Purple Pound

It’s estimated that seven million UK citizens of working age have a disability – that’s A LOT of spending power, worth an estimated £249 billion.

As the population increases, that number will go up, not down, which means that if you want to thrive now and, in the future, you’ll consider the opportunities that those sorts of private funding clients provide.

Changing Places

If you don’t have a Changing Places facility in your showroom, then I would definitely consider it – it’s a key part of the drive to make environments more favourable for people with disabilities.

Having one would help you to build trust and relationships with your customers, which should – in the long run – have a big impact on your word-of-mouth referrals and overall brand positioning.

It might be that it’s not possible for you to make that sort of investment but if you do run Open Days, it’ll definitely be well worth investing in hiring a Mobiloo or similar to ensure that your customers have toilet and washing facilities available to them.

But if your environment doesn’t easily accommodate a Changing Place (even a temporary one), it’s worth considering whether your venue is fit for purpose now and certainly in 2025.

The rise of customer service

Contrary to what the ‘self-serve’ checkouts might suggest, customer service has never been more important, particularly in the market we serve.

In 2017, BN Magazine reported that 75 per cent of disabled people have left a shop due to poor customer service.

If you’re serious about thriving over the next five years, it’s vital to invest in training your staff and ensuring that they deliver a positive experience for your customers.

Putting your money where your mouth is

In 2019, Closomat introduced a ten-year warranty, proving that they have no concerns that their toilets would not last for that period of time.

Similarly, last year also saw Geberit launch their free five-year warranty on the new Geberit AquaClean Mera Care Shower Toilet, displaying utter confidence in their product.

Do you have confidence in your product and, importantly, can you put your money where your mouth is?

The role of clinicians

In 2014 I set up Promoting Independence, a bespoke Occupational Therapy service which – among other things – helps manufacturers design new products and showcase their products with expert clinical input.

Since then, I have seen a rapid increase in organisations, especially the ones that exhibit with us at the Occupational Therapy Adaptations Conference (OTAC) that use OTs to help with product development and market research.

Our last two events saw the involvement of three private practice OT companies all supporting exhibitors at our events.

By tapping into clinical expertise, you’ll have your finger on the pulse when it comes to the way the market thinks and feels and what it wants.

And if you do that, your chances of thriving in the next decade, let alone the next five years, rapidly increases.

Stuart Barrow image

Stuart Barrow of Promoting Independence is a member of the British Association of Occupational Therapists panel and a recognised contributor in the field of home adaptations. His experience is sought by manufacturers and service providers looking for an expert opinion. He also runs the Occupational Therapy Adaptations Conference

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