Vendors: Medtrade still vital

Thursday, August 25, 2011

ATLANTA - Medtrade and the home medical industry have always been inextricably linked in their challenges and successes over the decades--so much so that as HME providers have struggled financially with dramatic Medicare changes and a fragile overall economy, so has the industry's marquee event.

Growing from humble origins into a major showcase for products and education, Medtrade sustained an economic shock after the financial meltdown in 2008, when some major vendors questioned the value of exhibiting at trade shows and opted to focus on alternate marketing strategies instead. While Medtrade has managed to recapture most of those exhibitors, sponsors are striving hard to make the show attractive to an audience still trying to find their way in a hardscrabble business climate.

Based on exhibitor comments, Medtrade's promotional efforts are working as many still see the show as relevant and important to their business operations.

Steve Cotter, president of Bryan, Ohio-based Gendron, admits that three years ago he was among those exhibitors who considered abandoning Medtrade in favor of other options, but ultimately chose to stick with the show.

"It turned out to be the best decision we could have made," he said. "Over the last three years we have had tremendous traffic in our booth."

Lawrence de la Haba, senior vice president of business development for Atlanta-based GF Health Products, says Medtrade is still a great way to network with customers. 

"We have always stated that as long as our customers took the time and expense to go to Medtrade, we would do the same," he said.

Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility also heeds its customers' demands to be at the show, said Kirsten DeLay, executive vice president of sales, management and operational planning.

"Throughout our history we have exhibited at Medtrade and our customers continue to ask us to do so," she said. "Our customers drive what we do, so they are the reason we're there."

Wayne Merdinger, vice president of business development & international sales for Anaheim, Calif.-based MK Battery, says the opportunities provided by Medtrade haven't changed despite the HME industry's changing landscape.

"It has given exhibitors a chance to see a multitude of their provider customers in one venue while affording providers an opportunity to visit with their suppliers, gain exposure to new products, companies and programs, and share problems and solutions with their peers," he said. "As economic and legislative challenges continue to plague the industry, Medtrade now takes on an even more essential role in attempting to bring businesses together so that we can tackle these challenges with a more unified voice."

For Goleta, Calif.-based Inogen, exhibiting at Medtrade remains a high priority and is critical to customer relations, said Bob Fary, vice president of strategic alliances.

"Medtrade is still the best vehicle for us to present our products to HME customers," he said.