Providers scale back holiday advertising

Sunday, November 30, 2008

YARMOUTH, Maine - Retailers, some HME providers included, have braced themselves for a gloomy holiday shopping season.

"November has been very slow for most of the providers I've talked to," said industry consultant Jack Evans, president of Global Media Marketing in Malibu, Calif. "Usually November and December are big months for HME providers that have retail showrooms and then it slows down in January and February."

With consumers expected to spend less money on gifts this year, some providers are scaling back their holiday advertising campaigns, Evans said. Many providers run ads year after year that encourage shoppers to "give the gift of comfort" or "give the gift of independence." The ads typically refer to comfort and lifestyle products like lift chairs and scooters rather than standard HME.

But this year, providers are spending less money on holiday advertising, because they're worried they won't get their usual return on investment, according to retail consultant Robert Rodriguez.

"They're afraid that for the cost of advertising--doing print, TV or radio ads--there's not enough cash buyers out there to make up for that price," he said.

While the natural instinct may be to reduce holiday advertising campaigns in a down economy, providers should be doing just the opposite, Rodriguez said.

"My goal is going to be to sit down with my best retailers and say, 'Here are 10 items I think you should promote right away on a Christmas or holiday flyer,'" he said. "'Don't just stand by and let the season go away and do business as usual.'"

Some providers are heeding that advice. In late November, Black Bear Medical put the finishing touches on a holiday print advertising campaign. Additionally, the Portland, Maine-based provider will offer 15% to 20% off cash-and-carry, in-stock items before the holidays.

"No matter what, people are going to pay for their health and wellbeing and comfort," said President Jim Greatorex. "When times are bad, we don't dip quite as much as others, but when times are good, we're not going to get the spike that others might get, either."