Wal-Mart, schmall-mart

Monday, June 30, 2003

BENTON, Ky. - When big-box neighbors Wal-Mart, IGA and the Dollar Store pulled up stakes one by one and moved away, things got pretty lonely for West Kentucky Home Medical. At first, manager Kirk Dripps thought the vanishing retail traffic might hurt the HME’s business.

“You should have seen it the day Wal-Mart moved out,” Dripps said. “There wasn’t a soul in this parking lot. It was very depressing.”

On the bright side, West Kentucky Home Medical did end up with plenty of parking.

“You can get right in the store and out,” Dripps said. “It is very convenient.

The exodus of Wal-Mart and the other big guys began about three years ago. Despite Dripps’ initial fear, the impact on West Kentucky Home Medical was nada. In fact, business has never been better, thanks to beefed up TV advertising, good service and word of mouth, the manager said. To accommodate its growth and plan for the future, the company’s moving into the IGA’s old digs this summer. At 15,000 square feet, the new location is about five times bigger than the company’s current site.

With that extra space, Dripps intends to showcase lift chairs; scooters; respiratory equipment, which accounts for 70% of its medical equipment business; diabetic shoes; beds; and other DME. It will also expand its custom rehab offering.

“If people see things, they are more likely to buy it,” Dripps said. “There is still money to be made in this business if you are smart. We do pretty good for a small mom-and-pop.” HME