Cybersales stay strong

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

WORLD WIDE WEB--Sales in traditional retail outlets may be in a downward spiral, but online providers are proving the old adage that health care is recession-proof.

“People are going online to find better prices in this economy and there are plenty of people who are uninsured and underinsured,” said Valerie Paxton, co-owner and executive vice president of Allegro Medical. “Paying a cash price for medical supplies is more economical.”

Online providers enjoy some insulation from economic downturns in ways that brick-and-mortar providers do not. They have a national customer base that’s not subject to shifts in regional, state or local economies.

Even though people are still spending money online, that doesn’t mean they’re not watching their dollars. On the contrary, they are taking longer to make purchasing decisions, asking more questions and comparing prices.

“People used to call and throw down their credit card number and easily buy a $3,000 or $4,000 scooter,” said Lisa Stein, CEO of “They’re still buying, but they want the less expensive product.”

Basic day-to-day items like walkers, bath safety equipment and medical supplies, are still sure bets, online providers agree.

“Bottom line, they still need those items in order to function,” said Meir Tsinman, president of “Those people will still go ahead and purchase items.”

Additionally, technology has enabled online providers to supply better content - faster - on the front end, and automate back-room processes like billing and shipping.

“The more we automate, the more our costs are reduced,” said Paxton. “With brick-and-mortar DMEs, you still have those buildings and rent - those fixed costs go up. We don’t have inventory.”

When you get right down to it, the Web is not the novelty it once was, as people have become accustomed to using it in their everyday lives.

“We talk to those 92-year-old users everyday,” said Stein. “We still get the occasional person who will say ‘I don’t want to use my credit card online,’ but it’s generally a non-issue. If they had that concern, they would not have gotten that far with us.”