A marriage made in retail heaven? Matchmaker hitches DME to Wal-Mart

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

BOSTON - Kim Myers masterminded DMEs recent push into the retail market and the bustling aisles of the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart.
Apria’s Wal-Mart stores, including this one in Albuquerque, N.M., employs the plan-o-gram designed by Kim Myers, president of Companion Health Services.

Myers, president of Companion Health Services in Boston, a provider of services and specialty health supplies to nursing home patients, developed the idea on a trip to Wal-Mart headquarters to work on her own entry into Wal-Mart with her Nail-Port nail salons.

“The more I learned about Wal-Mart’s Supercenter philosophy, I become very intrigued and didn’t see why the elderly could not go into a Wal-Mart and get their particular products there on the retail level or even through insurance,” she said.

The initial agreement with Wal-Mart included five locations. So far, Apria, The Scooter Store and Hutchinson Home Medical of Salem, Mass., have jumped on board, and the number of locations grew to 12 in June.

“What we were first looking for in a partner was a provider with the name recognition that could cover the United States,” said Myers.

The Wal-Mart HMEs offer a host of home medical supplies including, bath safety, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, ambulatory products and rollators. Providers can offer further services to customers that are available through their non-Wal-Mart locations.

“We have been approved for a certain category of products and if that does well and if there are products that wouldn’t conflict directly with Wal-Mart, then we can get other products approved,” said Myers.

Myers also designed the look and layout of each of Wal-Mart’s HMEs to provide consistency between stores.

“When you go into the Scooter Stores’ Daytona Beach store and then go to Apria’s Albuquerque store, they look identical - same colors, same graphics, same products,” she said. “The only thing that is different is the bulkhead sign.”

Myers said she believes the combination of Wal-Mart’s visibility and foot traffic and provider partnerships within the community will make this retail venture successful, despite some early apprehension.

“I must have called more than 100 HMEs when Wal-Mart said they would give us this opportunity. I just don’t think they were comfortable at the time with the whole retail component and not aware of the success they could have,” said Myers. “Now we have a success story that is wonderful.”
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