Outlook 'very good' for scooter sales

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

As the Medicare climate continues to become more inhospitable for the home medical equipment industry, mobility providers are increasingly finding refuge in scooter cash sales, manufacturers say.

As the customer base swells with the tide of aging baby boomers, there are more retail opportunities than ever, say manufacturers.

"The outlook is very, very good" for scooter cash sales, agrees Jason Davis, vice president of sales for Old Forge, Pa.-based Golden Technologies. "More dealers are looking for cash products and one of the best retail cash products is a scooter."

The difficult Medicare environment will only serve to strengthen retail mobility sales, Davis said.

"Manufacturers are putting more quality into their products for the price and people who really want a scooter will find a way to buy one," he said. "Even with third-party reimbursement, dealers will find ways to make up for lost reimbursement levels by adding those accessories that make an end-user more comfortable with the product."

To be sure, the influx of baby boomers represents a tremendous opportunity for scooter retail, added Cy Corgan, director of retail mobility sales for Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility.

"Baby boomers are turning 65 every day and they are impacting the marketplace," he said. "Boomers are more discriminating in what products they want and won't settle for what they are given. They want to get it for themselves."

At Columbia, S.C.-based ActiveCare Medical, Mark Wahrmund's data shows that about 66% of the entire scooter market is retail and that "this number is likely to grow due to the continuous changes in Medicare." Under current market complexities--especially with the financial implications of competitive bidding and reimbursement cuts--"providers are already exploring retail avenues to increase their cash flow and profitability," said Wahrmund, director of marketing.

Wahrmund is also bullish on the boomers because "they have a need and financial ability to purchase scooters, so the retail side of the business should continue to grow." And regardless of whether or not a provider wins a competitive bid, he says "the scooter market is an opportunity to either supplement their product line or provide them with an opportunity to stay in the power mobility market."

Building sales

As cash sale potential mushrooms, it is up to mobility providers to make strategic business decisions that enable them to capitalize on the market, Corgan said.

"Having the right selection is what drives customers to the product," he said. "Providers need to recognize the opportunity they have--they need to get engaged and make the investment. They need to jump in with both feet, stay committed to the category, adhere to best practices, generate traffic and carry the best-sellers. If providers do that right, they can drive the awareness to consumers and provide them with the proper education."

Pat O'Brien, Golden's director of marketing, adds that more providers are reaching out to their manufacturing partners for guidance in the retail arena.

"We've received so many requests for retail training that we offer a special seminar in conjunction with consultant Colette Weil at Medtrade and Medtrade Spring," she said. "Both sessions were standing room only because dealers are hungry for this information. All year long we've been offering webinars for marketing, merchandising and retailing on a regular basis. We have dealers reaching out to us to come to their facilities and evaluate their structure for selling retail products, particularly scooters."

The mobility provider community is improving in its approach to retail sales, says Michelle Mikitish, retail mobility sales manager for Pride.

"They keep getting better and more providers are recognizing the opportunity," she said. "We are helping by keeping them focused on marketing services, offering a wide selection and service after the sale. We had more inquiries about retail mobility at this year's Medtrade than ever before."

'Paint a picture'

Accessory sales are critical for optimal sales and retailers are starting to see its potential, Davis said.

"Our providers are getting better at this every day," he said. "They are realizing that adding a cup holder, cane holder or crutch holder helps the end-user have a complete product to improve their lives while increasing their own margins."

Corgan says compatible products like lifts and ramps "paint a picture" for consumers about how the products fit together in a set and recommends that they all the products be shown together in a creative way on the showroom floor.