Wheelchairs Plus relies on online trifecta

Thursday, May 31, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga. - When it comes to selling wheelchairs, scooters and other HME online, Wheelchairs Plus has the bases covered. The provider sells equipment on its two Web sites (www.wheelchairsplus.net and www.wheelchairinabag.com), posts equipment to medmarketplace.com; and manages its own store on ebay.
"(Doing business over the Internet) has allowed us to cut out a lot of overhead," said President Michael Osbon. "No high rent, and because we don't rely on Medicare, no huge staff of billers. We wanted to take as much cost out of the equation as possible, and we found that the Internet was the best avenue for that."
Wheelchairs Plus began in 2003, when Osbon and two business partners started selling wheelchairs and scooters through newspaper classifieds. They turned to the Internet soon after to ratchet up sales. Other than a 10,000-square-foot warehouse and operations center, here, it has no physical presence.
Wheelchairs Plus' ebay venture, in particular, has helped boost business. Even though several hundred companies sell wheelchairs through their own ebay stores, Wheelchairs Plus claims to be "the leader." So far this year, it has conducted more than 7,000 transactions. Since 2004, it has serviced more than 30,000 customers and of the 10,929 customers who've left feedback, only 16 have left negative feedback.
"Four of those are in the process of being cleared up," Osbon said. "We have 99.9% satisfaction."
Wheelchairs Plus may not have the ebay market cornered for long, though. More and more providers are thinking about selling equipment on ebay, especially to "unload inventory," said Rob Summitt, president of The Summitt Group, a rehab provider in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Rick Perrotta, president of Network Medical Supply, a rehab provider in Charlotte, N.C., echoed Summitt's sentiments.
"We've looked at it long and hard," he said. "For a little provider like us, though, we always wonder whether we'd waste more money on our learning curve than we'd earn back on actual sales."