Goodbye ugly aluminum, hello retail success

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Until recently, the retail locations for Advanced Home Care could only be described as "ugly closets," said retail specialist LilliAna Ward.

"Walkers and commodes were just stacked up, with no rhyme or reason," said Ward. "Odds and ends were hanging on the walls and nothing had a price tag."

Enter Ward, who set about turning the full line HME provider's retail business--about 25 of its locations offer retail--into a serious money-maker. In the last year, retail business has doubled.

How did they do it? Ward has redesigned the sales areas, which acted as little more than storage space, and changed up the merchandise at 14 of its retail locations, with plans to transform two more in the near future.

"We created it so it's not just bent, ugly aluminum," said Ward. "When you walk in, the store tells a story."

Ward designed displays to be self-explanatory, like offering cleaning wipes and pillows with the CPAP machines.

Advanced Home Care turned to retail to bolster the bottom line in light of declining reimbursements, said Tina Godfrey, senior director of customer support and retail services.

"We thought, 'What else can we carry that would complement the services we provide?'" said Godfrey.

That's just the ticket, says Sue Sarko, director of marketing at Contour Products, a manufacturer of support pillows and CPAP accessories that has products in more than 1,000 HME stores.

"Adding retail should enhance your clinical business," said Sarko. "It's not a change from black to white."

One key strategy that has worked in getting the word out about the provider's new offerings is enlisting clinicians, therapists and even the company's drivers to hand out coupons that offer 15% off items bought in the store.

"What's exciting is people are coming in off the street, picking up six or seven items and cashing out," said Ward. "That's never happened before."