Bath safety products hit retail high note

Monday, November 23, 2015

In an HME environment that is increasingly dependent on cash sales for revenues, there is no better product category to have than bath safety. All the ingredients for success are included—a swelling tide of users in aging baby boomers, a diverse and attractive array of products, and a retail-friendly designation that falls outside the Medicare scope.
The folks at Port Washington, N.Y.-based Drive | DeVilbiss have been doing their homework on the bath safety market and have found data that supports major growth in the category for HME providers. For instance, a Kalorama Information report from January 2015 found the growth rate of people 65 and older is twice that of the overall U.S. population. Moreover, more than 3.5 million people received assistance bathing in 2012, most from utilizing bath safety supplies, the report stated.
“Bathroom safety products are often not covered by Medicare or other insurances, so with the growth in aging population, the demand for affordable bath safety retail products has increased dramatically,” said Jeanne Borgia, product manager of personal care and bath safety for Drive | DeVilbiss.
Another favorable trend for the bath safety business is the media’s focus on the issue, said Wade Lawrence, vice president of national accounts and business development for Oakdale, Pa.-based Clarke Health Care.
“Stories in the press help drive home the need for providing a safe environment at home,” he said. “Statistics have always been telling about how critical these products are on a day-to-day basis.”
big box irony
It takes more than just hanging out the bath safety shingle to attract customers. The public needs to know why visiting an HME store is the best option, said Dave Henderson, brand marketing manager for Algona, Wash.-based EZ-Access/Homecare Products.
“Many people don’t know where to go for bath safety products, so providers need to create visibility,” he said. “Advertising and creating community awareness through special events is a very good start.”
Consumers may first think of big-box home improvement stores for bath safety, but the irony is that their multi-thousand square footage is actually pretty limited for properly displaying all the options in the category, said Jason Moskowitz, regional vice president of Drive | DeVilbiss.
“They are not able to provide a variety of products to support all of their consumers’ needs, nor give them a vast assortment to choose from,” he said. “So by having an assortment and variety of products within the bath safety category, you’re creating basket-building opportunities that can increase your sales. Providers should market and position themselves as the specialized ‘category adviser’ over the big-box retailers.”
The HME provider’s specialization also extends to knowledge of the consumer’s physical condition, which serves as a distinct advantage over the big-box retailers, Lawrence added.
“The big-box stores will be selling based on the physical attributes of the room, not on the customer’s physical limitations,” he said. “The local HME provider will make the best suggestion based on expertise about the client’s mobility needs, as well as offering continuing support and service after the sale.”
3-D marketing
To most effectively reach consumers and build their trust, Moskowitz recommends a three-dimensional marketing strategy that includes a brick-and-mortar showroom, Internet presence and a “retail at home” approach.
The first key piece is an organized showroom with a diversified display of products, he said. Second is an e-commerce capability, which Moskowitz says is the fastest growing segment of the HME business.
“The geriatric customer is not necessarily the ultimate customer,” he said. “It’s the family or caregivers who are selecting products for them. This market is Internet savvy and prefers convenience when shopping.”
The third leg of the marketing stool is in-the-home sales to current customers. By educating the consumer on other products available that coincide with a delivered product, such as a bed, wheelchair or oxygen, “HME providers are viewed as a trusted adviser rather than a delivery service,” Moskowitz said.
Merchandising magic
The key to bath safety product sales is presentation, “which is half the battle,” Borgia says.
“Consumers buy from retailers they like and trust, so when they walk into a showroom with an organized display set up, they are more likely to buy from them rather than a store with a hard-to-navigate product display,” she said.
Lawrence acknowledges that with so many products available, it is difficult to determine how many to carry. As a result, he advises using discretion in the number and scope of product options.
“There are so many out there you can’t focus on everything,” he said. “Maybe get a focus on a few different products that you can push and have everything from low-end cost, high-end cost and everything in between. Give them enough choices so that they can compare.”
Plan-o-grams are an effective way to display a wide variety of products at once, Borgia says, and vignettes are also a helpful demonstration tool.
“Having a mock bathroom set up helps ‘humanize’ the experience,” she said. “Consumers can visualize how to incorporate these products into their homes and daily lives.”