Peacock feathers and lift chair bingo: All in a day's work for HME retailers

 - 
Friday, May 31, 2019

From solid bets like selling lift chairs to stocking this season’s hottest styles, it's all in a day's work for today's HME retailer providers they say.

During a panel discussion at Medtrade Spring in Las Vegas in April, four HME providers offered their thoughts on how to build a successful retail model.

Give the people what they want

While the traditional HME model has long been to assume the customer can’t or won’t pay for anything when insurance might, changes in payer policies that place more of the costs on consumers means people will pay for what they want, says Mark Nicotera, president of AZ Mediquip.

“People that don’t look as if they have any money will buy a $2,500 POC w/out blinking,” he said. “Our customers have insurance, but it’s not providing what they need.”

Amazon? Bring it.

HME providers—any providers, really—are never going to beat the retail behemoth that is Amazon on price, they say. It’s all about service, starting with front-end staff, says Mike Tovoli, vice president of business development for Geneva Woods Health Supplies.

“We bring in vendors to do educational training (on products),” he said. “You have to have their buy-in. You can help someone and see them leave your store with a smile and know you’ve helped them with their quality of life.”

Having a welcoming environment can also give providers an edge over online stores, says Greg McGough, director of retail operations for XMED Oxygen and Medical Equipment.

“Make sure your stores are fun,” he said. “ (For us) it’s a bright, fun environment. We want to make sure people are comfortable. We play lift chair bingo.”

Be a student of retail

When it comes to stocking more “fashionable” items like shoes, it’s important to think like a retailer—not an HME provider, says Carol Kommers, a supervisor of customer service, merchandise management and systems with Benefis Spectrum Medical.

“When I first started getting into retail, I had shoes, but not the trends, so I sat with my rep and we did the buying together for the first couple of seasons,” she said. “Today’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster.”