Take 'people first' approach to bath safety
Perhaps no HME category has a bigger demographic advantage than bath safety. While most of the markets skew older, bath safety is seen as a desirable product group by a wider age bracket—from baby boomers to geriatrics. The fact that the products are functional, practical and have an aesthetic appeal gives them a versatility that other categories don’t have, manufacturers say.
Because people of all age groups update their bathrooms periodically, adding bath safety staples like stability bars, shower benches and traction mats are logical additions to any renovation project. For that reason, bath safety has a bright future as a retail category, says Wade Lawrence, vice president of national accounts for Oakdale, Pa.-based Clarke Health Care.
“In the years to come we will see a growing bath safety market—it has a lot of potential,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of growth year-to-year for these products.”
The burgeoning popularity of bath safety is an opportunity to educate providers and the public about its importance as part of the residential décor, its status as a retail cash category and its pertinence for all age groups, Lawrence said.
“Though boomers are a driver for this product category, if you’re talking about bath safety in general, pediatrics are also a major positive in this market,” he said. “There are many kids that fit into the bath safety category who are in dire need of bath safety equipment.”
Census projections certainly work in the HME market’s favor as the aging population is expected to increase by approximately 80 % by 2030.
“Considering the large increase of those aging in place and that 90% of adults over the age of 65 report that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age, we are only beginning to see the demand for bath safety products,” said Jen Anderson, marketing program manager for Piscataway, N.J.-based American Standard.
Focus on safety
The bath safety market is about safety first and foremost, manufacturers say. Given that the bathroom is known to be one of the most hazardous rooms in the home, providers need to make the correlation between bath safety products and injury prevention, Anderson said.
“Two-thirds of all accidental injuries happen in the bathtub or shower,” she said.
Viewing bath safety from a holistic perspective is an effective way to convey to consumers how the products can improve the room, said Sue Chen, president of Carson, Calif.-based Nova Medical Products.
“We call it the bathroom safety solution,” she said. “Everyone can visualize their own bathroom. When we talk about the ‘hot spots’—toilet, tub and bathing—we can break down a fall prevention message that is proactive. Once you visualize the functions, you can provide the solutions.”
Bath safety is not about selling products, but a “fall prevention consultation,” Chen said. “Think beyond the parts and about the entire safety suite.”
The safety suite concept works as a powerful sales approach, Chen says, because it is a platform to discuss the details of cost objections.
“We explain that to purchase a bathroom safety suite is about $250, whereas a trip to the emergency room is $5,000,” she said.
Listening is key
Dialogue between customers and providers is essential for determining the scope of the sale—regardless of whether the decision-maker is the end-user or a family member. By carefully listening to what customers want, the provider can put together a product package that best suits their needs, Lawrence said.
“Providers need to do what it takes to best fit each client’s needs,” he said. “It is a ‘people first’ approach.”
Anderson adds that when it comes to selling to potential customers “we have found that each situation, like each bathroom, is different. Take into account each person and their situation.”
When presenting product options, Anderson recommends a “good-better-best” selection to show customers they have a comprehensive menu to choose from. For instance, American Standard offers an economical walk-in shower with built-in seat. A “better” option is the hydrotherapy bath tub with inward opening doors, while the “best” option is a walk-in bath with an outward opening door.
There is no “right” way to handle product installation—whether to do it in-house or hire a contractor for the job, manufacturers say. What matters is the provider’s commitment to ensuring the products are installed properly.
“There are some instances where a general plumber can easily install a new walk-in bath or shower,” Anderson said. “However, there are other instances where major modifications need to be made to the bathroom to ensure the safety of the resident. Therefore, someone who is an expert in design and construction is needed. Bath safety is not something you should cut corners on—it is best to have it done right by a contractor you trust.”