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Tis the season...for waiting: It's all stuck in the water

Tis the season...for waiting: It's all stuck in the water

YARMOUTH, Maine – HME retailers trying to meet the needs of holiday shoppers are not immune to the challenges wrought by an epic supply chain meltdown. 

Lift chairs? They have them. Three-wheeled scooters? They might have to wait. 

“Lift chair sales are normal because I can actually get those,” said Jim Leedom, owner of Lomita, Calif.-based Home Health Depot. “I’ve spent the morning calling manufacturers asking for three-wheeled scooters and they are telling me March or April. No one has anything – it’s all stuck in the water.” 

‘Barrel of monkeys’ 

Retailers have had to think creatively to return sales to normal levels in the face of supply chain challenges, with some even reporting record-breaking years. 

“With the back orders, it’s been a barrel of monkeys,” said Mark Nicotera, CEO of Phoenix-based AZ MediQuip. “We’ve had to be very flexible and creative, trying to bring different things into our stores.” 

Provider Kevin Brown has kept his shelves stocked by building new relationships with manufacturers and ordering out several months.  

“It’s been difficult, but we’ve had to really pay attention to inventory and order well ahead,” said Brown, one of the owners at Hermitage, Tenn.-based All Star Medical. “We’ve opened the doors to try to get products from different manufacturers. We’re working through it and trying to plan and look at the numbers.” 

The flexibility of retailers must extend to their staff, Nicotera says. 

“Sales team members have to get used to not being married to the same products,” he said. “(They have to learn) alternative equivalents. We’re still finding products to sell pretty consistently. We’re also big on product planograms – the same in all stores. Now we are having to mix things up, so some have some things, others (have other things).” 

‘Last mile’ 

While retailers expressed sympathy for the challenges manufacturers face, there’s room for improvement, they say, especially when it comes to communication. 

“It doesn’t matter when your shipment comes in,” said Dave Kozack, COO for AZ MediQuip. “The bigger challenge I’m having is, they can’t tell me what the product allocation is on that shipment. Is it January, February, March? They can’t tell me. I can blindly place orders, but I just don’t know when I’m going to see product. They can’t seem to complete that last mile.” 

There’s also room for improvement, in terms of manufacturers adopting drop-shipping programs that benefit their customers, especially those with a large e-commerce business, Brown says. 

“Some of them have gotten better at it,” he said. “I wish they would think more retail, but they are still archaic, as far as retail. (They still are more focused) on insurance.”


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