Escaping the Warehouse Mentality

Be honest. Would you describe your respiratory storefront as more of a warehouse or a department store? If you say warehouse, don't despair. Despite the industry's push for retail, some providers are finding it difficult to change the home delivery habit.

There's a good reason for this. Making the transition is not easy, especially since retail hasn't been HME's forte.

In this month's cover story, Jeanne St. Peter, vice president of marketing and managed care at Accurate Medical Equipment, Fort Worth, Texas, talks about her experience making the move to retail.

To make the shift, a few things had to change. First up was a storefront makeover. St. Peter set up departments for the different medical equipment offered and brought in more products to give patients choices. One end of the store features a tub with grab bars and a modified commode to illustrate bath safety equipment. Near the entrance, two lift chairs show cloth and leather options, and a tray table attached to a bed holds a book and reading glasses to show patients how a bed might fit into their homes. To the left is the respiratory department, which encompasses mannequins wearing mask options, informational posters and several CPAP accessories.

Next up was finding accessories that would do well in a retail outlet. St. Peter says that finding accessories has proved to be very difficult. She's spent a lot of time researching items that might work well. One thing that's helped is feedback from referrals and patients. St. Peter says a referral source insisted that she carry CPAP cleansing wipes and those items are flying off the shelf. A patient came in complaining about the straps on their CPAP mask, which prompted St. Peter to carry cheek pads that cushion the straps. Now, those cheek pads are one of the most popular accessories for sleep.

Improving the storefront also required St. Peter to dig deep into her marketing background. She remembered that everyone loves a sale. Now the store features a clearance shelf that stocks items that didn't do well and other items that were collecting dust in the warehouse. St. Peter says that when customers enter they head straight to the clearance area.

Are you doing everything you can to boost retail sales? In this issue, marketing experts detail the steps necessary for retail success and offer ideas you may not have thought of. But as St. Peter noted, the best tips come for patients and referrals. So, make sure you're listening to what your patients want.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management May 2009 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Elisha Bury is the editor of Respiratory Management.

HME Business Podcast