Medline preens up a retail program

Sunday, June 26, 2005

MUNDELEIN, Ill. -- Medline hitched its wagon to the retail gravy train that's been rolling for the last decade when the company debuted its Merchandising Solutions program at a sales meeting in May.

In its first month, Medline won 32 new customers to a program that distributes planograms and merchandising collateral such as valances, posters and banners. The company has also enhanced its retail packaging with colors and pictures.

"At focus groups last year, our customers were telling us that retail was one of their highest growth areas," said Dave Jacobs, president of Medline's durable medical equipment division. "As a percentage of their business, they say it's increasing from the teens to the twenties and heading north."

Though the great retailing movement of the 1990s -- the HME superstore -- was a bust, interest in reaching the aging baby boomer market is no less acute than it was when light bulbs started illuminating the dim, undiscovered corners of a supplier's business.

Wal-Mart began retailing HME in the mid-1990s. Last summer, its Supercenters started turning heads in this industry as HME suppliers, from independents to Apria, started managing HME sales in select stores.

Wendi Phillips, who manages Breeze Medical in Blue Springs, Mo., used a Medline Merchandising Solutions to launch in a Wal-Mart Supercenter May 25.

"The program "works well with the slat wall, which is the Wal-Mart look," she said. "When we go into Wal-Mart, they put up the walls for us, and all the walls that surround our square footage are slat walls."