Mayslak: Conquer your retail fears

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fear is what keeps many HME providers from taking the plunge into retail, says Don Mayslak, director of store design for Lisle, Ill.-based Gladson Store Design Group. He spends his days trying to assuage that fear as he guides HMEs, pharmacies and other specialty providers into the world of retail home health sales. Mayslak and his team of merchandisers replace their clients’ fear with knowledge of proper store layout, product placement and retail best practices. Here’s what Mayslak had to say when HME News caught up with him recently.

HME News: With all the talk about retail, why aren’t more providers doing it?

Don Mayslak: I think it’s fear on their part. Some of the dealers I’ve done design work for have been all ready to go, but then say, “I can’t do it right now. We got oxygen cut again.” I say, “This is the reason you need to do it.”

HME: How big of a shift do you think it is for a traditional HME provider to transform into a retail-oriented business?

Mayslak: If they don’t have a retail background, there’s a lack of understanding of its opportunities. The hardest thing is when someone comes in with a prescription. They’re used to just giving the patient what they need. We try to get them to make one additional cash sale, whether it’s a bag or a related accessory.

HME: What are some steps providers should take before adding retail elements to their businesses?

Mayslak: You have to understand the physical needs of the business and what ancillary areas you need. The provider has to try to anticipate what they may need in the future. Then we try to figure out the product mix and specialty departments. Then we develop a layout for it - what’s the draw in the store and how do you get the customer to move through the store.

HME: It’s one thing to offer retail-oriented products; it’s another thing to move them off the shelves. How do providers make that happen?

Mayslak: Don’t just have a walker sitting there; have a fully accessorized product displayed, so the customer can start asking you questions. This isn’t a situation where you’re selling something they don’t need. You’re helping to educate them on how they can improve the quality of their life. Retail for HME is very different than any other type of retail, because you’re selling things no one really wants to buy.

HME: If you had one piece of advice for providers, what would it be?

Mayslak: The main thing is we want them to know the importance of retail to increasing their business, because they’re struggling right now.