Knueppel... Opens closet door

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WEST ALLIS, Wis. - Provider Kevin Robison used to turn his nose up at consignment closets. Not anymore.

From June to August, Robison set up 27 consignment closets, mostly for hospital emergency rooms and physical therapy clinics.

"In the past, we wouldn't have thought of consignment closets as, shall we say, profitable," said Robison, the DME specialist for Knueppel HealthCare Services. "But from tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow."

The consignment closets have been such a success that Robison has dedicated two employees--one from the shipping and receiving department and one from the service department--to managing them.

Robison admits that consignment closets are "a lot of work" for little return, but he says they "get our foot in the door and, if we're lucky, generate referrals" for bigger-ticket items.

"If, all of a sudden, we get a referral for a rehab chair, it offsets everything," he said.

Consignment closets aren't the only way Robison is shaking things up. In July, Knueppel partnered with a construction company and launched Knueppel Home Solutions to provide home modifications.

"Home modifications is a big trend right now, and if I have a customer who asks me about a grab bar, I want to be able to ask, 'What else could make your life better?'" Robison said.

At the end of the day, Robison says, the new niches help keep Knueppel nimble.

"You can't wait for (success) to come to you," he said. "Too many providers sit at the side of the road and fret."