Sears enters the HME market

Sunday, October 9, 2005

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - HME provider Arcadia Resources has joined forces with Sears to launch Sears Home Health Care.
Six inaugural retail stores have opened in the Detroit area, one of Sears' strongest U.S. markets, the partners announced last week. The stores, which operate as departments within Sears, range in size from 500 to 1,500 square feet and are stocked with more than 1,000 products, including mobility devices, lifts, walkers, orthopedic support and bathroom safety.
"These stores are branded Sears," said consultant Jack Evans, who helped design the stores. "It creates a certain level of trust right up front to put the Sears customer at ease. They are going into the market with a trusted brand name. No one's done that."
Arcadia, as a licensed business partner of Sears, developed and operates the centers. The agreement allows Arcadia to use the Sears name and market to the Sears customer.
Evans said HME is a natural fit for Sears.
"The Sears customer is traditionally older, and people shop at Sears for home products," said Evans. "Hopefully, the same trust will carry over from interior products to home care medical equipment."
Others are skeptical.
"Is the Sears name going to make any difference," asked Louis Feuer, an industry consultant. "Probably not. It's the people behind it that's going to make this work."
Arcadia, headquartered in Southfield, Mich., provides home care, temporary staffing, mail order pharmacy and home medical equipment.
Putting HMEs into large retail stores isn't a new concept. In the last year, the number of HME locations in Wal-Marts has grown to more than 50 nationwide.
"Personally, I would trust Sears more than Wal-Mart," said Alan Grogan, president of Grogan's Healthcare Supply in Lexington, Ky. "But I don't think Sears is any different than anybody else in terms of long-term motivation --- making money and capturing part of the market."
But can an HME fit in with the big-box retail model of selling low-cost mass merchandise to the masses?
"I'm not sure it's the same business," said Feuer. "All we're looking at is putting a company's name on a very patient-focused business. You could put the same tires on 45 different models of cars. You cannot put the same walker on 45 different patients and have it work the same."