Invacare: We will not attend Medtrade in 2008

Sunday, November 18, 2007

ELYRIA, Ohio -- Invacare "easily" spent more than $1 million to attend the Medtrade spring and fall shows this year, but that won't happen in 2008. Instead, the industry's largest manufacturer will spend its money on, among other things, regional and state HME events, educating clinicians and "a couple of our own events," said Carl Will, group vice president, HME division.

"We don't have anything against Medtrade--we're not looking to damage the show," Will said. "We think we can get more intimate customer contact through education and training at regional events."

Invacare is the second high-profile HME manufacturer to announce this fall that it will not attend the Medtrade shows in 2008. On Oct. 1, Permobil announced that it would forgo next year's Medtrade shows and instead host a rehab summit in the spring on 2008.

The announcements by Invacare and Permobil followed Drive Medical's decision not to attend this fall's Medtrade. Drive also plans to skip the spring 2008 show and most likely the fall 2008 show, said President Harvey Diamond.

All three companies have been among the shows' largest exhibitors.

"We still believe trade shows are important to this industry to show new products, build relationships with customers and as a format to bring people together on different regulatory issues," Diamond said. "But we think that has to be done in a way that is less expensive for manufacturers to attend."

Over the years, the Medtrade shows "have been very beneficial to Drive, but "it is so expensive right now that we can't justify it."

By not attending Medtrade, Drive was able to devote more resources to educating dealers, helping them with accreditation and advocacy, Diamond said.

By not attending the Medtrade shows in 2008, Will said, Invacare will be able to:
-- devote resources to planning two or three of its own training, education and product events in big cities around the country;
-- play a more active role in events organized by state and regional HME associations, helping to promote those organizations and being more involved in education; and
-- work more closely with clinicians, helping to make them "more comfortable" with equipment that is available. This is a key component of Invacare's sales efforts.

"These are tough times for the industry," Will said. "We're trying to be as effective and efficient as possible in managing our money. It's similar to where providers are at. Second, we believe this will be an improvement in terms of access to training, education and information to what we were delivering with the Medtrade model."

Invacare has not ruled out returning to Medtrade in 2009. Additionally, its smaller subsidiaries--Motion Concepts and Pin Dot, for example--will attend the 2008 shows, Will said.

In announcing its plans to forgo the Medtrade shows next year, Permobil President Larry Jackson stated: "Our decision to spearhead this event was driven by the need to present information in a more direct setting than just your typical tradeshow. The Rehab Summit will allow us to take a focused approach and really educate our providers on industry trends, governmental regulations, product information and more."

Medtrade show director addresses Invacare's pull-out
HME News: Did Invacare's announcement take you by surprise?
Kevin Bird: We've been working with Invacare for years as partners on the show. They have been a pioneer in both the industry and as a participant in the Medtrade shows. We have worked with them very closely in the past few months to satisfy their wants and needs from the show. During this time we crafted opportunities for them and they ended up choosing another path.

HME: With Invacare and Permobil opting not to attend the Medtrade shows next year, do you expect other exhibitors to follow?
Bird: One or two companies do not make or break a trade show. This gives an opportunity to their competition to increase their presence in front of the Medtrade attendees.

HME: Invacare and Permobil must see value in doing something outside the show. Given that, what value does do the Medtrade shows offer exhibitors?
Bird: The value that Medtrade offers to the exhibitors remains unchanged because the value that Medtrade offers to the attendees remains the same, if not more valuable. The exhibitors benefit from the show by being able to network and negotiate with and sell to the attendees that are there for the education and product knowledge. None of that changes. There are just two fewer companies to show their products.

HME: Do you plan any changes in 2008 that may increase the show's value to exhibitors?
Bird: There is a misconception about the importance of a trade show in general, not just Medtrade. The value for an exhibitor is not inherently tied to anything that the trade show producer does for them...but what a trade show producer does to attract the attendees. We are in the process of planning for the 2008 shows and how to enhance the offerings for our attendees. As these plans get finalized, we will definitely keep the industry up-to-date.