Black Friday offers bright ideas for biz

Friday, December 28, 2012

As more HME providers emulate the retail success of mainstream giants like Target, it was only a matter of time before they tackled Black Friday. 

“This is a different twist on DME,” Heather Lotz-Klug, manager of retail sales for New Berlin-Wis.-based Home Care Medical. “The whole market is changing.”

Black Friday, which marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, offers retailers a chance to woo customers with promotions like “doorbusters”—extremely discounted deals that bring customers in the door, on the theory that they will spend more money. 

Home Care Medical chose attention-grabbing items like the unusually-named Kabooti cushion and colorful walker accessories as doorbusters, promoting the deals through ads in the Thanksgiving Day edition of the local newspaper, social media and email. 

“There were people walking in with the ads in their hands, saying, ‘I had to come in and get this before supplies ran out,’” said Lotz-Klug.

Troy, Mich.-based Sleep Solutions also gave Black Friday a try this year.

“We were hoping for walk-in traffic,” said Robyn Parrott, president. “We’re in an office building, so that’s a challenge.”

Sleep Solutions offered several deals, but the big draw proved to be a deal offering two free pairs of diabetic socks for every pair purchased. 

Both providers saw new faces in their stores and hope that will lead to repeat business down the road. 

Still, Black Friday isn’t for everyone. 

“What I’ve found is that people don’t buy retail medical equipment based on a promotion or sale,” says Mike Kuller, founder and president of Allstar Medical Supplies in Concord, Calif. “When they need something they’ll do some price shopping, but they still buy these items right away.”

Kuller has had better luck continuously promoting the same item, in the hopes people will remember the ads when they need equipment. 

Jesse Riggleman also says his customers don’t wait for short-term sales.

“People buy the things we sell throughout the whole year—it’s not something you wait for, like a luxury item,” said Riggleman, director of Kittanning, Pa.-based ArmsCare. “These are necessary items that help people get around their homes.”