Providers vs. retailers: A game of pricing, service

Friday, January 18, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine – It’s time for HME providers to adapt to the reality of big-box stores as competitors, according to a recent HME Newspoll.

A whopping 98% of respondents to the poll said the mass market retailers in their areas carry HME. What’s more: 71% of respondents said retailers are increasing the amount of HME they carry.

One thing respondents said they aren’t doing in response to competition from retailers: “You’re silly if you think you can compete on price,” said Cliff Woolard, president of Home Med-Equip Co. in Concord, Calif.

Respondents said retailers are carrying everything from bath safety products to off-the-shelf orthotics to aids to daily living (ADLs).

So what are respondents doing to level the playing field with retailers?

“We concentrate on marketing,” said Ed Huyke, manager of Anything Medical in Bullhead City, Ariz. “We have a 5,300-foot, fully equipped showroom, which allows for our customer to see, touch and try out our products.”

Respondents said they also place a strong emphasis on service, not typically a strong suit for retailers, at least when it comes to HME.

“They have no clue what they are selling,” said Kevin Brown, owner of All Star Medical in Hermitage, Tenn. “All they can do is tell you what aisle to go down.”

Additionally, respondents said they do things retailers often don’t do, like bill Medicare and Medicaid, and make deliveries.

“These things still make a small difference,” said Sandra London, CEO of Advanced Homecare in Lawrence, Kan. “But it is getting more difficult when even the food stores are now carrying CPAP supplies.”

Even though there are customers out there who try to get the best of both worlds—the pricing of a retailer and the service of a provider—respondents said the latter usually trumps the former.

“We add so much service and knowledge to the selection and training process that we do pretty well against mass retailers,” said Lori Sears, owner of Active Home Medical Supplies in Lapeer, Mich.