HME Retail Sales

15 Ways To Grow Your Retail Business

Boost cash sales revenue with quick turnaround tips from industry experts.

Grow Your Retail BusinessAs providers work to diversify their revenues, retail sales continue to lead the charge. But retail is a never-ending learning curve. The more providers learn about cash sales, the more they realize they can grow even more, if they truly want to have their retail business flourish.

As HME providers continue their quest to raise revenues by increasing cash sales, HME Business magazine asked four of the industry’s top retail experts for advice on taking a retail business to the next level. They share 15 solid ways providers can expand their retail businesses.

Jim GreatorexJim Greatorex, business development, VGM Retail Services:

Redesign your showroom to provide a welcoming, attractive customer experience.
The HME providers that have had showrooms for years have typically set them up to show a lot of Medicare items, along with cash items. While that concept is good, we have lost track of the image that we’re portraying and who our current customer is. It’s not really so much people aged 75 or older, even though they may be the consumer of the product. The person buying that product many times is a baby boomer or younger. With that said, many HME showrooms tend to portray a place for the very sick and the very old.

So consider a re-design that modernizes your showroom. Remove as much of the scary third-party products as you can and get some shelving in there that looks like it was made in the current century.

Hospital beds, patient lifts, and commodes are not attractive to the consumer. And get rid of packaging that is old and faded or does a poor job in catching the consumer’s eye.

Portray a retail image of positive aging.
When we’re looking at our customer base, the biggest opportunity is with baby boomers and marketing products to them. They have the income and they like buying quality products. Stores with images that cater to the very old and very sick will scare away baby boomers, who should be your target market. In addition, we must think about what we call our products and how we market them. Start thinking about an active lifestyle store not product category names like ‘bathroom safety’ and ‘mobility aids.’ Instead, consider calling your bathing products line ‘Bathe.’ That says your customer will discover products that will help them bathe. Instead of the ailment your customers have, base names on the benefit that the product gives them. Instead of ‘orthopedic soft goods,’ which is a clinical, unattractive name, consider calling those items ‘recovery’ products.

Bring in new products that will differentiate you from your competitors.
I visit a lot of HME retail stores and I’m finding a lot of the products are the same ones that the HME has been carrying for the last 20 years. There are some fantastic, new products in several different categories. Key to your business success right now is adding cash. Instead of selling one item, why not try for two or three items per ticket? Cash sales can help you grow that ticket by 30 percent to 40 percent. The revenue that it generates will make a huge difference in your overall economic picture, not only to your retail program but to your bottom line as well.

You can’t increase revenue unless you are always seeking new products that will cause consumers to come into your store. Adding new products also forces you to get rid of some of the old items that are not selling. HME providers should treat their retail showrooms like extremely valuable real estate in which products need to earn their way onto the shelves. If they’re not producing revenue or turning, it’s time to move them out and bring in the next great, new thing.

For example, there is a lot of opportunity with pain management products. This category has some great, new products that are very effective, very affordable, and great for consumer education. Consider products that help weekend warriors and very active people recover from injury or prevent injury. Another excellent category is mother and baby. For example, the breast pump program has grown tremendously due to the Affordable Care Act.

Danielle GarabilesVGM Retail Services customer and HME provider Danielle Garabiles, the operations manager at Avenue Medical, had these tips to add:

Think Retail Customer Service.
Anyone who has ever been in retail understands that the most important aspect is customer service. Too often I see DME owners/managers set in the medical mindset, looking for insurance and industry experience when selecting their staff. Hire sales people with excellent customer service abilities. The clinical areas of the job are much more trainable. Your store cannot reach its potential if your sales staff is not maxed out in the customer service department.

Train, Educate, and make it fun.
In my store I had my staff personally test products. If your staff knows how to use a product they will know how to sell it. Everything from nebulizers (use water – it will vaporize) to power; race scooters and wheelchairs. Teach the sales staff how to assemble the product. If they can use it and put it together they will know how to answer questions and, most importantly, meet the needs of the customers. I personally would be their testing model. I had them put on everything from compression, orthopedics, and kinesiology tape to biofreeze. Invest in your staff as much as you do other aspects of your business. Your staff is what drives your business. They are the first and the last impression to a customer and they will build the relationships needed for lifelong customers.

James Schreiber, vice president of Digital and Product Marketing for Pride Mobility Products, discusses more about Baby Boomers and why you need to embrace digital media:

Know the demographics driving HME retail.
The HME retail market is growing faster than ever. Baby Boomers caring for themselves and their parents have been shifting from seeing HME as only a medical model to viewing technologies like mobility scooters as quality-of-life tools. As of January 1, 2011, America’s 78 million Baby Boomers began turning 65 at a rate of one every 10 seconds. That’s 262,800 individuals per month and the wave continues for the next 18 years. Combine that with the average U.S. life expectancy of 78.7 years — up eight years form 1970 — and you have a clear, culminating trend. There’s tremendous HME opportunity in the spending power of these active individuals wishing to stay fit, active and mobile. This generation finds tremendous empowerment in HME retail products.

Know the core product categories for retail success.
Lift Chairs, scooters, vehicle lifts and even Group-2-type power chairs are enormous retail revenue streams. For example, the national average shows that 95 percent of lift chairs are retail purchases, as are 85 percent of vehicle lifts, 80 percent of scooters, and 40 percent of Group-2-type power chairs. These are tremendous retail opportunities. What’s more, manufacturers are designing products specifically for this prosperous retail space, building in not only medical-type features, but true consumer-sought features – USB ports on lift chairs, elevating seating on power chairs, and so on. Therefore, when choosing retail products to stock, think true retail features.

Get in the mindset of being a true retail operation.
Retail is retail, and providers need to address the many customers who are now approaching HME with a retail mindset. Here’s what providers need to do to satisfy these savvy consumers:

  • Have ready-to-buy inventory.
  • Display spacious showrooms that invite customers to touch and try the products.
  • Present the product to customers with a sales approach that doesn’t rely solely on medical need, but quality-of-life benefits.
  • Advertise in local media, showing the benefits and affordability of retail HME products.
  • Display products at targeted community events where demographic foot traffic draws product interest.
  • Understand that the competitive landscape is changing. Long established retail companies are now recognizing the HME space as another profit center.

Train yourself and your staff that retail is about sales, not prescriptions.
Some providers still think the person walking in the door will have a prescription for a particular product. Retail providers need to change this mindset and look at that person as a retail selling opportunity. Providers shouldn’t overlook the opportunity to incentivize sales staff by offering a commission on cash products and accessory sales. Many providers have a preconceived notion of what they feel a consumer will spend. Providers need to change their funding mindset to a cash purchase mindset and recognize that consumers are willing to pay for products that will let them increase their quality of life.

Bring your retail HME into the digital media age.
Baby boomers and seniors are phenomenally tech savvy – and they do their product research online. As a true retail provider, invest in digital marketing. Start with a locally focused website that emphasizes retail products and prices. Then, invest in ‘local’ search engine optimization, so when someone types in, say, ‘scooters,’ in your area, your storefront location and website appear atop the results. Google has a small business program designed just for local businesses. Again, this is a new generation of HME consumers, seeking true retail service. While the old lead-generation process was prescription-based, it’s now web-based. When consumers want a product, the first place they turn is online. Digital media can exponentially drive HME traffic to your storefront. In retail, digital media is proving for providers a big return on a small investment.

Cy CorganCy Corgan, national sales manager for Home Health Care at EZ ACCESS, has these tips for training your staff, merchandising and bundling the sale:

Keep your staff well trained.
Excellent product knowledge, education, and customer service are critical to survive in the retail market. A customer will feel more comfortable making a purchase when the staff at your dealership is up-to-speed about the products you offer. For many this will be an item that they have never purchased before and are looking to you to be the expert. If consumers feel that the people they are dealing with are not knowledgeable in a particular product category they will not hesitate to take their business elsewhere. Rely on your manufacturing partners to conduct product training/certifications for your staff.

Make merchandising your silent salesperson.
A well-merchandised showroom with bestselling brands is a key to a successful customer experience. Point-of-purchase displays act as a silent salesperson and help educate the consumer until a salesperson can wait on the consumer. Pay close attention to signage, color selection, lighting and the floor plan-a-gram. Each of these helps the consumer navigate the showroom and improves the shopping experience. Having a ramp display positioned near the mobility products reminds the customer of the possible need and lets them take the ramp for a test drive. The sale is much easier when they can try before they buy and feel comfortable with their purchase. This also encourages the customer to browse your store and find other products that they may not have thought of at first.

Keep customers happy with a wide selection of products.
Keeping enough inventory on-hand is crucial to closing the sale. Consumers love selection. By way of example, when shopping for a TV a consumer won’t purchase from a retailer that has little to no selection. They want to see the hottest brands that offer all the high-end features. And what helps close sales is when the product is in stock and the customer can take it home the same day. If the product is not in stock and customers cannot leave the store without their need fulfilled, chances are you will lose the sale. Offering selection significantly improves the probability of closing the sale and the consumer is less likely to leave to shop the competition. This also ensures that customers will become repeat shoppers. If a new need arises, you will be their first stop knowing that you had the product they needed during their last visit. Ordering in bulk also helps keep your cost down when it comes to freight savings.

Market to your referral sources.
Continue to educate referral sources of your product and especially new product offerings. They may not be aware of all the solutions you have and could be fulfilling their need for product elsewhere. Including access products in your advertising efforts and on your website is a great way to get them in front of these sources. An easy-to-navigate and relevant website is a vital part of the retail market with the expanding use of mobile technology. Many referral sources will do a fair amount of research when looking for a dealer that can meet the needs of their customer. EZ-ACCESS offers our dealers, via the dealer portal, access to the images and product information to help with the creation of these marketing materials and website. There are also a variety of pre-designed ads that can be easily customized with your information and sent out in a local publication or even displayed on social media.

Bundling the sale.
Bundling products is a retail best practice that is employed every time we shop. As a simple example, think about each time you visit a convenient store. When checking out they always ask if you would like to add a candy bar, a pack of gum or other item displayed on the counter. The reason they do this is most people will say ‘sure.’ If the candy bar is a $1.00 and they sell 5000 candy bars per month they just increased sales revenue by $60,000 per year. The same concept applies in our industry. Displaying and bundling ramps or lifts with a scooter or power chair is an easy way to increase sales. Clients, first-time users especially, often forget about a threshold or step they may have at home and do not have a plan for getting their new mobility device in and out of the house. Even a client with a walker may have trouble with a threshold at their front or back door. Consumer financing also benefits the bundled purchase. The customer may see the value, but not have the cash on hand for the entire purchase and helping spread out the cost for them is key.

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of HME Business.

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