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Needs of the Less Able

Mira Showers is one of the leading brands in the showering products market. It manufactures a very wide choice for both domestic and commercial applications and has an enviable reputation for its range of thermostatic showers.

The company has had some success with products specifically designed for people with special needs / the less able but now wished to review this market’s real needs /real future and thus give Mira’s product development team a steer on what shower products need to be developed, to enable the company to gain greater penetration of the Special Needs market.

We broke the project down into three stages, firstly tracking a number of new build / refurbishment projects, from lead enquiry stage through to project completion. We tracked not only projects where Mira had been specified, but also where the company had not been successful. The aim here was to give us a clearer understanding of the influences at each stage in the build process.

For stage two, we took a more in-depth look at the influences on the purchase of shower equipment, in order to then evaluate what products / support are needed.

As influences vary according to the situation where showers are used, we undertook telephone interviews with a cross section of key influencers, including key charities, Disabled Living Centres, major UK and independent care homes, Local Authorities, Occupational Therapists, Architects / Specifiers, Mail Order / Distributors / Merchants.

During stage three, we undertook a number of face to face depth interviews with sectors deemed to have the highest influence / greatest impact on supplier selection.

The results confirmed that the Special Needs market is experiencing significant growth – people are living longer and there is a general preference for people to remain in their own home / in the community, rather than in nursing or care homes. Mobility and sight impairment are the two main difficulties or disabilities experienced in this market.

The word ‘disability’ has many negative associations and consequently consumers do not want to buy “products for the disabled”, but rather products that make their lives easier/help them to retain/regain their independence.

In view of the fragmented nature of the market, there are many influencers; however, the most important are Occupational Therapists. They have the most contact with the market, and help to determine what the needs of the person are and what products will help that person.

There is also a definite preference for styles that look normal, that would appeal to the fully able-bodied, rather than aimed solely at “the disabled”. Nevertheless, the preference is for products that have been designed with the less able in mind, rather than as an afterthought.

Commenting on the project, the Marketing Director said “They responded quickly to the brief and gave us a new and clear insight into one of our complex but critical sales channels”