Business Solutions

Standard Power Mobility's Retail Renaissance

Power mobility products may be a higher end cash purchase, but this isn't stopping customers from paying out of pocket to get the features they want. How do mobility providers get started?

Power mobility retailAs HME providers look to implement more cash sales as part of their everyday business, and stand power mobility has found its way into the mix. In fact, customers and caregivers are demanding choices — even for big ticket items — and they aren’t hesitating when it comes to buying power mobility items that elevate their quality of life.

“Power mobility is once again evolving,” says 20-year industry veteran George Turturiello, ATP, CRTS, of Northeast Med-Equip/Northeast Accessibility. “The geriatric portion of our power mobility sector is accepting that Medicare is not going to fulfill their requirements for mobility. The Baby Boomers are looking for more than the basic ‘Scooter Store’ power chair. They want added functions and to enhance their daily endeavors. They want, for a lack of a better word, ‘excitement,’ and the ability to do new things that their condition restricted in the past.”

Many scooters and group 2 power chairs are coded and may be covered if the patient wants to take the time to obtain the necessary documentation and if they meet the coverage criteria, says Greg Packer, president of the U.S. Rehab division of VGM Group Inc. In fact, many patients are waiving their Medicare benefit due to the time it takes to obtain the extensive documentation and they don’t want to wait several weeks to months for the product even though they may qualify, he says.

“The market is alive and growing,” Packer says. “It’s a transactional process that people are doing more frequently. “Medicare has provided an environment of difficulty for patients, so those who do not have, will not have and those who have funds, will be able to purchase whatever they need. Medicare has made the selection process and qualification process lengthy and cumbersome. It has taken people who have paid into the system all their lives from actually using the system. They may qualify for the chair, but they are paying for it out of pocket.”

Who is the cash sale power mobility buyer?

According to Micah Swick, director of sales for Pride Mobility Products, Pride has learned not to pigeonhole customers into a single segment or demographic.

“Our customers are older individuals desiring to remain active, their sons and daughters who desire the same for their parents, and grandchildren with increasing amounts of expendable income taking home the gift of mobility,” he says. “They are individuals with health-related challenges and healthy individuals who just love getting out and want to extend their day. That’s why all of Pride’s new products are designed to exceed expectations for both function and fashion.”

Your entry level buyers are more than likely retired individuals who are realizing their limitations, Turturiello says. They have some expendable income but are not well off, with some buyers getting help from family members to make a big purchase.

“Most of the multi-function power chair buyers are younger and are more active,” he says. “They have disabilities that have occurred earlier in their lives. That can range from accident victims to disorders from birth. This is the group I refer to as looking for ‘Retail Rehab.’ They want custom features, but not at a new power chair price.”

Swick says that the industry is entering a new era, where style and innovation are important factors in the consumer’s decision-making process.

“Our customers like technology and they want to look and feel good when they’re out on the town or cruising through their neighborhoods — and our products meet those needs,” he explains. “But, they also want the security that comes from knowing that they’re getting a high-quality, dependable product that meets their needs and lifestyle, and they’ll reach into their own pockets more often than not to satisfy these desires.”

To the point of today’s customer wanting the latest features, Packer says that in addition to the cumbersome documentation requirements customer’s face when buying a funded product, another reason for a retail transaction is the continued reduction in the Medicare allowable, which reduces the features on products to only what is required. Thus, he says, if patients want an item that is better quality or with more deluxe features, they have to pay out of pocket to upgrade.

Getting started

HME providers who have been in business a while but are just starting to sell power mobility should take advantage of their customer database.

“HME providers already have a customer base so they’ve got a big advantage over a startup,” Swick says. “A good place to begin is to allocate some floor space for mobility products in a prominent location and let your existing customer base know you’re expanding your product offerings either with a grand reopening promotion, customer appreciation days, or some other marketing campaign. Reach out to your suppliers and ask them what their best products are and how they recommend you get started. They are motivated to ensure your success.”

Packer says that along with scooters and power chairs, toiletry items, disposables, pain creams, and aids to daily living — such as grab handles or grabbers — are all good products to include for mobility retail. He says that the products should be convenience items with good margins that are displayed on shelves. Ramps, lifts, and cushions are also good options.

“The provider should look at the patient as a whole,” he notes. “The patient will need these items. He or she might as well purchase the products through the provider.”

Another important strategy for power mobility is having a strong social media and overall online presence, says Packer. Upgrades, including maintenance packages, specialty add-on items like increased service and repair warranty extensions are good add-on options when purchasing a power chair or scooter online. Offering home accessibility items, like ramps, lifts and grab bars are also an option for retail sales.

Another key merchandising strategy for retail power mobility is selection.

“Nobody goes to car dealership with just six cars on the lot or with just one or two color choices,” Swick says. “Similar rules apply to our industry. Show your best-sellers in multiple colors. It creates a strong presentation, suggestively saying this is a popular product, and provides selection. Providers putting three or four of our Go Chairs on their floors are selling multiple times more units per month than when they display just one. Also, make sure there is space to test the units. Consumer are significantly more likely to purchase if they can take their new mobility device for a test spin before asked to open their wallet.”

Turturiello advises to make sure that you have an employee with power mobility experience.

“You can’t just buy used or demo chairs and go into power mobility sales,” he explains. “You need to have a substantial knowledge base in power chairs before you can recommend a chair to someone. You need to know how to set up a chair for an individual and how to explain the functions and limitations of each piece of equipment. You have to be able to repair and maintain what you sell.”

Packer agrees in the importance of on-staff education and added that HME providers also need to have knowledge of the diseases, the obstacles that people would need to overcome, aids to daily living that could help a person, and whether patients will use their power mobility device inside, outside or both.

“Another option for additional sales opportunities is doing a fall assessment in the home, where you are looking at any hazards in the home that may be a risk for falling,” he suggests. “Then you are able to offer products to help alleviate these risks while also boosting your rapport with the patient by taking the time to address his or her needs.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of HME Business.

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