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MELROSE WHEELCHAIRS: ROLLING out chairs for over 30 years

Christchurch wheelchair business Melrose Wheelchairs provides clients with a wide range of bespoke, manual options, from everyday wheelchairs for kids and adults to sports chairs for games like rugby, basketball, tennis, and badminton.

Manager Annette Melrose says the business has developed from three people building wheelchairs in a garage to a company manufacturing 10 chairs a week in a factory 31 years later, now armed with around 45 staff members.

She says the sports chair industry, which is quite big, is where Melrose Wheelchairs made its name, with sports chairs making up roughly 30% of Melrose’s Wheelchairs’s output during some years.

Annette loves making a real difference by offering services people really need, stressing the need for customisation in her industry to meet all customer requirements.

“It’s nice to provide a service for people that need it, rather than just something that’s desirable. We take great care to meet the needs of the person, so everything is custom [made].”

Personalising each chair

When speaking about the customisation process, Philippa Melrose, the Sales Manager at Melrose Wheelchairs, says clients come in and use a bespoke wheelchair for around two weeks. After this trial period, Melrose Wheelchairs will make changes from there.

Bespoke products are very important for the Melroses, who want to make sure the needs of each client are met. The titanium used to build the chairs can be easily customised to fit every possible measurement, while making the chairs a lot lighter than competing carbon wheelchairs.

Annette estimates half of their chairs go to New Zealand, with 40% going to Australia and the final 10% to the rest of the world.

Why Melrose Wheelchairs are NZ made

Annette enjoys supporting kiwis and growing New Zealand, putting her profits towards development, and keeping the money within the nation.

“We’re New Zealand people doing it for New Zealanders. All the money we make stays in the country, gets put back into development, so it’s building New Zealand, really.”

Among other things, Philippa says that something she finds so rewarding about the business is the freedom and happiness it provides for others, allowing people to go out into the world and achieve what they want. She also says the wheelchairs enable clients to have experiences they may never have had before.

“I think it’s seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces when they’re just happy and free to be whoever they want to be, and it’s unique to them—it’s their chair, it fits them, and they can just move so freely.”

“With BMX tyres, a freewheel… they can get out into a forest, Bottle Lake Forest, along the beach… things they may have never seen yet.”