'Give them what they want'

Friday, February 29, 2008

As advances in breast cancer treatment reshape the model of women's health boutiques, providers must change with it, say industry leaders.
It is no longer enough to stock a few prostheses and a limited selection of post-surgical garments and bras. A well-appointed women's health boutique stocks an array of items ranging from breast pumps and prenatal vitamins to turbans and high-quality wigs alongside more traditional post-mastectomy products.
Drawing in younger women builds loyaltv--and future sales, says Sheila Robertsdahl, department manager for Just for Women Boutique in Fargo, N.D.
"You may be a nursing mom now, but down the road, somebody you know will have breast cancer," she said.
Cancer is detected earlier these days and lumpectomies are becoming the treatment of choice. Women who do undergo a mastectomy frequently opt for reconstructive surgery at the same time, says Vicki Jones, owner of the Women's Health Boutique. That's good for women, but providers need to build cash sales to offset stagnant or declining post-mastectomy business, she says.
"We are carrying more lingerie and fashion items," said Jones. "That's not what I started out to carry, but we specialize in bras sized DD and above. Obesity is a major problem and with that comes women not finding the right sized undergarment."
Lady Binson's has seen an increase in sales of wellness products and employs a nutrition consultant.
"Women are being proactive about their health," said Tracey Dettmer, sales and marketing manager for the Warren, Mich.-based provider. "They are more educated and health is such a big issue, with fast food, fast this, fast that."
Customers also want to feel good about themselves, say providers. A woman undergoing chemotherapy still wants to look attractive.
"Women always find money to buy wigs," said Vicki Blevins, manager of VDK Turning Point Boutique in Lexington, Ky. "They will put off mastectomy products before headwear."
Supplementing breast cancer supplies with hot-flash pajamas, nutritional products and "Pink Ribbon" items makes good business sense, says Angie Hall, boutique manager for Lady Binson's.
"If we can give our patients what they want, we have the added value of (selling) the prosthesis every two years," said Hall, boutique manager. "We make money with the mastectomy business but also make them happy in every other area."