HME Retail Solutions
Retail's Proven Winners
Must-have categories and products that help ensure cash sales success.
- By Joseph Duffy
- Mar 01, 2017
Outlining a solid retail sale strategy can pose a tricky challenge.
Providers know that retail sales are essential in helping diversify
revenues in the face of reimbursement cuts, but determining
which categories are right for a providers’ business,
and how to sell those products isn’t exactly easy.
In aggregate, the percentage of HME provider revenue that comes from
cash sales is difficult to measure, but Maria Markusen, director of development
for VGM Retail, says that the number of VGM members contacting the
organization to discuss how to implement retail has at least tripled since the
beginning of this year.
Markusen notes that generally, those HME providers who have implemented
cash sale strategies have seen some measure of success but many
providers have not had enough time to move beyond the ramp up to obtain
“Those folks who are successful also implemented an inventory and
product management plan and a focused marketing plan to propel them
into success,” she explains.
According to Kamal Haddad, founder and CEO of HME e-commerce
company Health Mobius LLC, many HME providers should be generating
more than 30 percent of their revenue from retail cash sales.
“If they are not,” he says, “they should be asking, ‘Why am I not?’ and
‘How can I?’ Just about every funded item has an alternative premium
upgrade choice. They also have a number of accessories or complementary
items that are used in combination. It’s easy to display the accessories
in-store even when the inventory is not onsite by placing the order on
your company e-commerce website and having it drop shipped direct to
If anything, tapping into top-performing retail categories could be the
smartest approach for providers. If they pursue known top sellers, they
should be able to get closer to the the 30 percent that Haddad highlights.
To dig deeper, HME Business magazine asked a panel of retail experts to
discuss must-have retail categories and products and ways they can help
you grow your bottom line.
Rob Baumhover, director of VGM Retail
Products: Sheets, mattress protector, pillows, back wedge, eye mask,
aromatherapy, sleep machines
Category: Bath safety
Products: Bath seats, transfer bench, grab bars, tub bar, non-slip mat and
treads, shower head, bath aids, toilet seat riser and safety frame
What makes these items a necessity is the fact that every customer shopping
for an item within these two categories needs at least one of the additional
items listed as well. It’s what we call Incremental sales or add-ons (see
“How Incremental Sales Can Help Your Business”). If you sell the customer
a bed, why would you leave them to go elsewhere to get the accessories
when they need the items now and you have access to them?
Selling strategies: Make sure everyone is trained on the features and
benefits of all the products. Group the products together so it makes it
easier for the customers to see everything they would need, and for the
convenience of your sales associate when showing them everything. Also,
be in stock – it’s much easier to sell an item if you have it there for the
customer to touch and feel. Lastly, have the products signed and priced.
Tom Musone, marketing director for Juzo
Products: compression socks, stockings and sleeves
Strategy: Dealers should cater to the retail-side and medical aspect of
their business. The medical side is primarily driven by physician referrals/prescriptions, but as a strategic sales driver, dealers can offer products for
more than one condition that impacts circulation. If they are carrying products
to help manage lymphedema, why not also cater to vascular conditions?
If you carry an inventory of compression garments that are beneficial
for both categories, you’ll increase sales overall.
With the unpredictable healthcare landscape and insurance reduction
or elimination, dealers have to focus on the retail side, as well. This
means showcasing products that benefit customers beyond patients with a
medical need. For example, a breast cancer survivor may want a compression
sleeve as a preventative measure against developing lymphedema.
Healthcare workers who are on their feet all day are likely interested in
compression socks or leggings, though they don’t have a medical condition.
Both are likely familiar with the HME business, but may not have considered
becoming a customer until they get familiar with such products.
To capitalize on retail/cash sales, dealers need to merchandise properly
to highlight these products. By allocating ample space to display the right
product mix of compression socks, stockings and sleeves in various colors
and prints to highlight the fashionable aspect, as well as an adequate size
variety, customers will be drawn to at least browse through the selection.
Dealers’ product knowledge is equally important to drive cash sales. By
understanding customers’ needs or anticipating their interest based on lifestyle
or browsing behavior, a salesperson can point customers to multiple
products that can benefit them. Also, if dealers are knowledgeable of a
customer’s condition and recommends products that aid in treatment or
management, the customer will view the dealers as authorities and develop
a trust in their suggestions. Customers are more likely to repeat when they
know they’ll receive great products, service and counsel.
Community engagement is another tactic. When customers know that a
dealer gives back to the community via event sponsorships, charitable giveaways
or partnerships with non-profit organizations, they feel better about
giving them their business over a competitor.
Lisa Wells, vice president of marketing for
Products: Catheters and adult diapers
Category: If you want to beat Amazon at its own game in the cash sales
market, become an expert in the following product categories. When you
do, you’ll run circles around impersonal, off-shored support teams who
don’t understand your customers: Aids to daily living, support surfaces,
mobility products, nutritional supplements, disposable supplies, including
Incontinence, personal care and sleep comfort aids.
Strategy: At Cure Medical, we have found that insurance may not pay for
the entire month’s usage of catheters for those who rely on them. Some end
users surpass the 200 per month allowable cap on intermittent catheters, so
they fill in the gap by paying cash for extras. Also, they may prefer specialty
products, like closed systems when traveling or pocket catheters when
playing sports. If these items fall outside of their approved items, they’ll be
willing to pay cash for the convenience.
Adult diapers are generally cash pay, too, so if you aren’t offering these to
your existing catheter users, you are missing an opportunity to generate a
new line of recurring monthly cash flow for your business.
Brandon Noble, director of medical sales and
for Vionic Group LLC
Category: Orthotic footwear
Products: Slippers and Sandals
Strategy: The idea behind the slipper category is it’s your customer’s
first morning step out of bed to alleviate heal pain and to keep their feet,
shins and knees from hurting. To successfully sell through the product, we
recommend that providers use what we call the hang sell type environment.
Basically the product is hanging out on a hook with front and center
placement under a category of pain relief. It’s key for the store associate
to be educated on the how, what the product does, and what it can do
for their customers. The majority of people walking into your store are
not there because they feel good — it’s because something’s wrong. So
understanding the pain relief category, which is probably the biggest retail
category out there, and that there’s profit to be made off of it is key.
The second product is sandals. In the sandal category, there is the typical
flip-flop tong-type and then there’s the slide and backstrap type. The sandal
category as a whole in the consumer footwear world is actually the fastest
growing category in the industry. So with that mindset — and going back
to the natural pain relief category— you can provide the patient something
in a sandal that’s actually supported. When do you actually go out to any
other store and find a healthy sandal that is going to help relieve pain? From
ages 20 to 80, people are still wearing sandals and a lot longer than they
have historically. So that’s the opportunity. It’s growing and people want to
be in them. They want to free their feet, especially in the summer.
Also, whenever you implement retail, don’t set out going 100 miles per
hour. Retail is a slow to crescendo business model. So Month 1, shoot for
$500, Month 2, $1,000, etc. Don’t get anxious if you’re not at $10,000 a
month, even within your first year. Retail takes time to establish but it’s a
reliable business that brings in new customers even for other products. So
that’s the biggest thing that we find is sometimes providers get antsy and
they expect to be millionaires overnight and it doesn’t work that way.
Finally, a good retail operation will have inventory costs. You can’t order
one or two products at a time and run a good retail operation on a set
route. We have seen that consistent message over and over again. If you
want to be a part-time retailer, don’t do it. If you are committed to full time
retail, that’s where the success comes from.
Kamal Haddad, founder and CEO of
Health Mobius LLC
Picking the right product category is easy: It’s what you know your customer
is already buying elsewhere. When they get a wheelchair, walker or bed
from you, you know they are buying bath safety, aids for daily living, incontinence,
pain relief and other items to keep them more active and make
their life more comfortable. To build a successful retail business you must
offer products that complement your current funded products and services.
Focus on accessories and cash sale items that complement the products
and services you already offer and your patients will benefit from.
Much more important than the category may be the supplier you chose
to work with that offers these products. Think service over product. What
do your customers need? If you can’t stock everything they need, can you
get it fast? Are inventory levels and product availability accurate on your
point of sale system or website? Can the item be drop shipped direct to
the patient’s home via an easy interface? Can it be ordered online on your
website? If you think about merchandising and providing information on
your website in the same way as in-store, you will be able to capture more
There are many tools available today that will manage your online catalog
and can link up the ordering of drop shipped items on the back end. Use
those tools in addition to your in-store marketing to gain maximum results.
Tools to consider include ARI, VGM Forbin and Health Mobius.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of HME Business.