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Flexyfoot puts a suspension system on the bottom of walking aids such as crutches and walking sticks. This helps to prevent injuries that are common to people who have to use these aids and also provides greater comfort.
Flexyfoot’s patented design is based on a moulded bellows that automatically adjusts to the terrain so that the whole of the tread is in contact with the ground with each step. This dramatically improves grip. At the same time the bellows is absorbing the shock and impact that the user applies; this would otherwise be absorbed by their body, which is uncomfortable and can result in long-term injuries. It has been endorsed by senior people within the industry and by medical professionals.
There are a number of problems associated with traditional walking aids:
1. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people resist using walking aids such as a stick, due to their perception that the walking stick makes them look and feel older.
2. These “non-users” are much more vulnerable to slips and falls, which can result in broken hips and bones. The impact on both the person and their health provider can be very significant.
3. Traditional walking aids use a simple rubber ferule to supply grip. This primitive technology provides limited grip, particularly on smooth surfaces during the vulnerable first contact, and does not provide any shock absorbency. This means users of traditional walking aids remain vulnerable to slips and falls.
4. People that are longer-term users of traditional walking aids often develop musculoskeletal injuries such as repetitive strain injuries to hands, wrists, arms and shoulders, as well as long-term impact injuries to joints, tendons and muscles. These problems are well documented in medical research papers, from feedback from medical professions such as orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists, and from direct patient feedback.
We believe that Flexyfoot solves all of the above problems, “putting the spring back in to your step”. Using our proven and award-winning design and engineering skills, we have designed a unique range of walking aids that project a young and dynamic image, coupled with all the functional benefits of the Flexyfoot technology.
Substantial accomplishments to date
◆ 2015 sales of £153k, +22% on prior year*, aiming for significant growth in 2016.
◆ Substantial investment in marketing: press coverage, point of sale materials, packaging options, videos and TV ads.
◆ Sales to 37 countries without any investment in international marketing.
◆ April 2016: A large Chinese medical distributor has committed to significant & increasing minimum orders during each of the next 5 years.
◆ We are working with one of Germany’s leading manufacturer of crutches and walking sticks on plans to co-invest in their marketing activity for Flexyfoot in Germany.
◆ Expanded from the Flexyfoot ferrule to a complete range of walking sticks and crutches.
◆ Have built our own database of 4,800+ customers and prospects.
◆ Patents granted in USA, Japan, China, South Africa and Australia, and pending patent in the EU and India.
◆ Proven, reliable, cost-effective production process established. Flexyfoot is CE-marked, complies with BS EN standards.
*source: Unaudited management accounts
1. We have proven our ability to monetise Flexyfoot: In 2015 we achieve Sales of £153k, an increase of 22% over the prior year, at a gross margin of 44%*.
2. Two thirds of our 2015 sales were in the UK (£100k), where we sell via a mixture of direct and trade channels. Our marketing investment focused on generating end-user demand. As this demand has grown, trade channels (including Boots) have shown growing interest in stocking our products.
3. Beyond the UK, we have been successful in selling small volumes to customers who actively research mobility aids. We want to repeat our success in the UK by working with local distributors in our chosen markets, co-investing in marketing activities that will be tailored to each country, but will build upon the experience and investment that we have already gained in the UK.
4. Recurring revenues: Flexyfoot lasts longer than the conventional ferrule due to way it wears, but there is still a need to replace the tread. Replacement is a simple procedure, costing 50% of the cost of a complete Flexyfoot. Historically replacement sales have accounted for 18% of our sales. This demonstrates that people live and stay with Flexyfoot.
5. Expanding product range: We started with the core Flexyfoot ferrule and have grown our product range to include walking sticks, crutches, and the Ice Foot, which includes a stainless array of teeth that dig into snow and ice. Sales of these has proven to be very successful and are a useful add-on purchase.
Our aim is to continue to build a consumer brand in a sector that to our knowledge has very few genuine brands. Our brand stands for Safety, Security, Comfort and Style. Under this umbrella we will develop a product range to improve peoples’ lives and to put a smile on their faces. We see our model is what James Dyson did to the vacuum cleaner market: transforming the price point and profile through design, usability and marketing.
*source: Unaudited management accounts
Use of proceeds
We intend to co-invest in a country-specific marketing plan agreed with selected overseas distributors. Co-investment would foster much greater commitment to achieving sales targets.
We are already in discussions with two international distributors:
1. GERMANY: Our distributor, Ossenberg, has agreed to match our commitment of up to €30k to marketing spend in the coming year. The majority of this budget will fund an identified member of their team. We are also preparing to launch Flexyfoot in Germany at the OTWorld Trade Show in May.
2. JAPAN: We are in discussions with Abilities, a significant organisation in the Japanese Mobility-Aids market. Flexyfoot will be launched at a major Japanese trade show in October and we are encouraging Abilities to adopt a similar, co-investment approach to marketing to Germany.
We want to execute our plans in these markets as soon as possible and then move on to other selected markets in subsequent years.
Throughout the world people are living longer and want to lead more active lives and so our market is growing year on year.
Our business plan is based on the following assumptions:
1. Our plan assumes that the bulk of our revenue is earned in 6 markets: UK, Germany, China, Japan, South Korea and the USA. We already have a significant presence in the UK and active distributors in Germany, China and South Korea.
2. The combined population of these 6 countries is 2,024 million.
3. We estimate that 4% of a country’s population typically uses some sort of walking aid. As an example – in the UK, this would mean that 2.6m people use a walking aid [4% of 65 million]. This is proven to be a conservative assumption by a survey conducted by the UK’s Office for National Statistics in 2001 that stated this figure at 4.1m.
4. We then assume an average of 1.5 Flexyfeet per head – i.e. half the people with mobility problems use a stick (1 Flexyfoot), the other half use crutches (2 Flexyfeet).
5. Based on our current pricing, this would suggest the total value of the addressable market in these 6 countries is £870m.
Characteristics of target market
It is our opinion that the best route to market is to communicate to the consumer for self-purchase. They either retro-fit Flexyfoot to their existing walking -aid, or buy a complete Flexyfoot aid.
Our customers purchase directly from us, or from one of various trade outlets that stock Flexyfoot (typically these are pharmacy chains or specialist mobility aid retailers).
Healthcare providers, such as the UK's National Health Service, are a significant opportunity. However, we have found that these organisations are not set up to review and approve new mobility products, and tend to focus on minimising their purchase costs, as opposed to assessing the long-term benefits of reduced patient injuries. This does not preclude sales to the healthcare system, and we anticipate that over time the benefits are likely to be accepted and then we become standard fit.
We are building Flexyfoot as the go-to consumer brand for people who want to be more mobile without the stigma associated with many mobility aid products.
To date, our marketing has been UK-focused. Our own user survey revealed that the most responsive customer is a woman aged 50+ who buys for herself or for a family member. We have used appropriate PR, SEO, social media, and events to successfully sell to this demographic. We also work with charities that support sufferers of disabling conditions. Trade shows such as Naidex (UK) and Rehacare (Germany) have been an important channel for recruiting distributors and influential customers.
Our next goal is to develop our international presence. We plan to work much more closely with selected international distributors, using marketing co-investment to trigger active engagement. In Germany, our distributor has agreed to jointly fund a Flexyfoot Brand Manager. This will run in parallel with their cross marketing.
Japan has an ageing and wealthy population of 120M. Our distributor sells rehabilitation equipment and mobility products, as well as operating care homes. The founder has used crutches since youth and is a keen Flexyfoot supporter. We are co-exhibiting at Japan’s major rehab show in October and plan to dedicate a person to drive the sales to retail, healthcare and direct to consumer.
South Korea is proving to be a good market and we have a very active distributor who is moving into retail using our collateral materials.
And in China, we have just signed up one of the largest medical distributor. They have committed to significant & increasing minimum orders during each of the next 5 years. We believe they see Flexyfoot as a high value Western brand.
In terms of retro-fit ferrules or tips, to our knowledge there is very little or no direct competition to Flexyfoot and certainly not at our price point. We have the opportunity to adjust our sales price as our current margins are high and the technology lends itself to automation and high volume if and when we choose to fully automate production. We can therefore reduce our unit manufacturing costs further. The core technology, the bellows, is an extremely cost effective part and uses the same manufacturing machinery as a drinks bottle (but with our own tooling).
As far as we know the vast majority of sticks and crutches in the world are made in either China or India and there is very little differentiation between them. Some are decorated with fancy patterns but still use similar handles, metalwork and tips. There are of course some quality differences which translate into end user prices. As far as we know some countries such as China and Japan do not classify walking sticks as medical devices and therefore do not need to meet the same International Standards that Flexyfoot.
Typically sticks retail from around £10 to £30. When thinking about the benefits a stick can provide, or the health issues and cost arising from not using a stick, these prices are very modest indeed.
We have positioned our sticks at the top end as we are not seeking to sell very high volumes with low margins as there would be insufficient margin to invest in marketing to establish a brand that is sustainable long-term.
We believe that the trick to communicate the features and benefits rather than price. Our sticks sell for £39.95 in the UK.