Making a Splash with Bath Aids

The marketing and merchandising of bath safety is critical to success.

As customer demographics change, your approach to selling has to keep up if you want to keep your business strong and growing. That doesn’t mean following fads, but it does mean sizing up your customers, your store and how you stock and staff it, especially for stores that have been operating in more of a warehouse, brown-box model.

Despite competition from general and online retailers the customers are out there, if you know how to reach them. The keys to growing your bath aid business are smart promotion and merchandising, selection and a more concierge-like approach.

“Be cognizant what the image is of your showroom. Do you want to be current, or be the traditional scary medical equipment provider?” says Jim Greatorex, vice president of VGM’s Accessible Home Improvement of America division. “If you’ve got a showroom, you need to build it into a real showroom that has a retail concept to it, and you need somebody who knows how to do that.”

Take a look around your store. If the floor is crowded with bulky items, rethink their quantity and placement. “If you walk into a home medical supply store and the first thing you see is an electric bed, you feel like you have to be really old to need that,” he says. “In many cases you can use a picture for some of those items.”

Balance a good selection with getting the biggest bang from every inch of floor space. Limit the number of large items on the floor, keep them to the back of the store, and use them to market smaller accessories, which often are suitable for wall displays.

“Make sure to have a display open and set up of the bath seats and transfer benches for customers to sit in or touch and feel,” says Rob Baumhover, of VGM. “I would then merchandise the wall section with the boxed items on shelves towards the floor or just above the displays, then the hanging products above that. Lastly, make sure everything is priced for your customers’ ease.”

Brendan McEvoy, director of product management at Compass Health, recommends the “good, better, best” approach. Have a range of the same product with different features and price points on hand so customers can make the best choices for their budgets and needs.

“Retail accessibility to the products is the number one way to get things to move,” he says. “And the breadth of items available. You can’t just have one bath chair, you have to have the entire [feature] range of chairs.”

Many suppliers of smaller items offer display setups to maximize space while showing off their products.

Safe-Er-Grip’s Changing Lifestyles suction line is easy and space-economical to display, with a 14-item wall-mount setup available. Most of the Changing Lifestyles products are in the $7.99 to $29.99 range, with grab bars selling for $12.99 to $14.99.

Compass Health offers product sets designed to fit into 4-, 8, and 12-foot spaces. “Your four-foot set will get you the basics; 8-foot is a full mobility set and a full bath set; the 12-foot set is for a high-traffic store,” McEvoy explained. That also allows flexibility for stores growing the bath business. “We make sure that we position everything correctly so they know what goes with what. If they’re buying a bath seat, the box says you might need a showerhead, as well.”

Spiffing up the showroom is an important step, but staffing it is at least as important and may even come first.

“If you don’t have someone who has been in retail and knows merchandising, get somebody that has that experience,” Greatorex says. “Watch your showroom transform into a real retail experience.”

All the merchandising in the world won’t help if nobody knows you’re in business. For bath aids, “Letting your referral sources know the type of products you carry is always a plus when getting the word out or driving sales,” Baumhover says. “Many of our customers don’t even know we carry these type of products — this is a big reason many big box stores now do. So market to the masses. Our vendor partners have all sorts of helpful marketing pieces and we’re happy to make these connections to help drive sales and enhance the shopping experience.”

Who are the best referral partners? With bath aids, “doctors are too high on the food chain,” Greatorex says. He and other experts recommend putting the word out with home health agencies, therapy divisions of hospitals, senior services organizations such as the local Area Agency on Aging and other agencies that serve seniors.

“The best way to serve yourself is to campaign around your area and let everyone know you are in the business. Try to make sure those referrals will come to your door,” McEvoy says. “Start by saying you are in the business. Most people are not doing the legwork, so to do that outreach so it is a real advantage.”

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

About the Author

Holly Wagner is a freelancer writer covering a variety of industries, including healthcare.

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