A&E Medical 'retails it up'

Friday, February 24, 2012

FLORENCE, Ala. - Take 2,000 square feet of space, a stack of reading material on retail and a willingness to step away from an "insurance mentality," and you've got the makings of a retail showroom.

Which is just what Glenn Johnson, director of operations at A&E Medical, did. The provider in January held a weeklong grand opening for its first retail showroom. 

"I did a lot of research on retail and made sure everything was very attractive from a consumer standpoint," he said. "We were trying to get away from that sterile medical environment you see a lot of."

Johnson started by acquiring and gutting additional office space in their existing building to create a space that was open, well lit--they added a wall of windows--and inviting.

"We tried to retail it up," he said. 

That same attention to retail detail also applied to store displays, product placement and product packaging.

"It's hard to make a bedside commode look good in a retail package, but some companies have done it," he said. "We also have a lot of stuff set up so that people can see it, touch it, try it out."

Products include orthotics, incontinence supplies, basic mobility equipment, aids to daily living and lift chairs. Having products on the floor is much more effective than handing customers a brochure and a color swatch, said Johnson. 

Also new: No more automatic assumptions that customers will only buy what insurance covers.

"People will pay for this stuff," he said. "It's OK to take their money."

A&E Medical, which has been in business for 16 years, offers a full line of home medical equipment and respiratory services through four locations. It has two hospice contracts, and Medicare currently comprises about 60% of its sales.

Although A&E Medical is not in a competitive bidding area, the writing's on the wall, said Johnson. 

"Things are going to change," he said, "but people will still need these products."