Scooters ready to ride the HME retail road

Friday, December 28, 2012

For mobility providers looking to enter the HME retail parade, market specialists recommend they march in with both feet and follow the scooters.

As competitive bidding, strict qualifying rules and declining reimbursement levels have combined to edge many providers out of the Medicare program, it may just be the push some companies need to pursue a cash-oriented business model, says Cy Corgan, director of corporate sales for Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility.

“Through adversity comes opportunity,” he said. “There is a great need for scooters and the marketplace is expanding greatly. It will only continue to increase and we are very bullish about it.”

Contrary to what some providers may fear, transitioning into a retail model isn’t a radical or expensive process, Corgan says.

“You don’t have to go through a tremendous expense—just make the necessary investment in the inventory and in the showroom,” he said. “Make the changes that give the consumer confidence in you.”

If anything, the major change is in converting to a retail mentality where the objective is to welcome consumers instead of accepting them, Corgan says.

“Our industry has long been considered ‘destination retail,’ where referral sources send patients over with a script,” he said. “With true retail, they are coming through the door because they are interested, so you are now influencing those who come into your business. It is your job to convert the sale.”

The first step is to “think like a consumer,” agrees C.J. Copley, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Old Forge, Pa.-based Golden Technologies.

“Retailing is a mindset of finding ways to marry consumer wants to their needs to improve their lives in ways they didn’t know existed,” he said. “Retailers need to know that each consumer has a special set of circumstances that bring unique opportunities that will flourish in the right retail environment.”

Yet even though the retail focus is on cash sales, the process doesn’t have to be a high-pressure experience, says Phillip Preugschas, business manager of consumer power and scooters for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare.

“Today’s consumers are generally better informed and don’t necessarily need the retailer to ‘sell’ the product to them,” he said. “Instead, they want someone to be a consultant—someone who knows the product inside out and offers advice on how a product will work for them.”

Jordan Flowers, general manager and COO for Haddonfield, N.J.-based Active Controls, advises subtlety and tact when dealing with potential clients.

“Many future scooter customers are initially very shy to inquire about scooters, so you have to encourage them to express their interest in a very passive and candid way and nurture it from there,” he said. “Once you find out what activity your customer has had to concede, show how your product can help and the scooter will sell itself.”

Reeling ‘em in

Retail is about luring people into your store, an aspect HME providers need to take into consideration, manufacturers say. The key is to create an attractive environment that consumers want to “check out” and linger for a while, Copley says.

“Consumers do judge a book by its cover,” he said. “What does your cover look like? Is it respectable and visible?”

Once you get people in the store, it is essential to create a comfortable atmosphere, Copley says.

“Lighting is key—many of your potential clients have low vision issues and bright lighting will enable them to read the small print on the product tags,” he said. “You should also make sure that the store is clean and well organized—clean, dust, polish and rotate. The store must have an impeccable image.”

Ideally, the display floor should showcase as many different scooter models as possible, but Corgan says he realizes that limited space and budgets may be inihibiting factors. Even so, a minimal, but diverse line-up of scooters can still be effective, he says.

“The more you can have on the floor, the better, but as long as you can show a travel scooter, mid-sized scooter and bariatric scooter, you are at least touching on one model for each category,” he said. “That way consumers can get a flavor of what you have to offer.” HME