The Market to Target: Women and Compression
When it comes to buying compression products, the vast majority of sales are from women. Here’s what you need to know to target this important demographic.
- By Joseph Duffy
- Oct 01, 2017
In business, you prioritize the portion of your customers that generate the lion’s share of your revenue. Often it’s referred to as the 80/20 rule, meaning the 20 percent of your market that generates 80 percent of your business. While that’s a rule of thumb, it’s almost exact when it comes to compression, as one segment of the market generates the overwhelming majority of the market.
Compression products, such as hosiery, socks and arm sleeves, offer many benefits for patients, from providing simple relief for tired and achy legs to helping to prevent severe varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Both men and women use compression products, but women are the prominent demographic.
“In 2017, women account for approximately 70 percent of SIGVARIS’ year-to-date sales,” says Matt Howard, Director of Sales, SIGVARIS. “We believe women purchase more compression garments than men because women have a higher rate of incident of CVI [chronic venous insufficiency]. Also, more women than men get their legs treated at vein centers.”
Other reasons women use compression more than men include pregnancy and breast cancer. Nikki Jensen, vice president of Essentially Women, says there is compression hosiery that targets some of the discomfits of pregnancy, while breast cancer survivors are at risk of developing lymphedema due to lymph nodes possibly damaged by cancer treatment.
“Breast cancer survivors will need compression therapy for affected limbs,” she says. “The most common off-the-shelf compression garments are arm sleeves and stockings. With progression of their condition, custom-made compression garments may be necessary.”
WOMEN-SPECIFIC COMPRESSION NEEDS
Saskia Handschin, medical marketing and educational manager for SIGVARIS, discussed why compression is helpful for pregnancy and DVT prevention.
“Pregnancy requires compression due to various factors, including hormonal changes and increased blood volume, which can cause women to develop edema and varicose veins during pregnancy,” she says. “Thirty percent of women who are pregnant for the first time and 55 percent of women who have had two or more full-term pregnancies develop varicose veins.”
For DVT prevention, she says compression is required due to hormonal changes that can lead to the development of blood clots. This can happen during pregnancy or from taking birth control pills. She says it is estimated that pregnant women have a four times higher risk of developing a DVT during pregnancy than the non-pregnant population.
Handschin recommended wearing 15-20 mmHg compression for prevention. Symptoms that call for 15-20 mmHg include tired, achy legs; evening or occupational edema; spider veins; and mild varicose veins.
She also says wearing 20-30 mmHg is appropriate for treatment, but physicians usually write prescriptions for these products. Wearing graduated compression during pregnancy can help prevent leg swelling, varicose veins, and spider veins.
“Wearing SIGVARIS compression provides a graduated pressure that is more firm at the ankle and the compression lessens as the sock or stocking goes up the leg,” she says. “This graduation aids in improved blood flow back to the heart, preventing DVTs. Without graduated compression, gravity and pressure make it difficult for the blood to flow in an upward direction.”
WHAT TO STOCK: POPULAR ITEMS FOR WOMEN
According to Tom Musone, Director of Marketing, Juzo, the most popular compression garment style is the knee-high stocking. Howard also says that regarding women’s compression garment sales so far in 2017, SIGVARIS’s knee-high sales were considerably higher than thigh or pantyhose.
“Knee-high stockings are easier to put on and a bit more comfortable than thigh highs or full pantyhose lengths,” says Musone. “Knee highs support the calf muscle, which has a critical role in pumping blood back to the heart. Compression helps promote that circulation while women are walking or standing.”
Musone says most women wear compression stockings due to chronic venous disease. He says:
- 25 million to 30 million Americans have some type of venous disease.
- The majority of women impacted are between ages 40 and 80, and the disease is more common as patients get older.
- Women are three times more likely than men to develop the disease.
- 30 percent of women will develop venous insufficiency during their first pregnancy and the risk increases with each pregnancy.
- Per Jensen’s point earlier, Musone also says most women wear compression arm sleeves due to lymphedema from breast cancer:
- Two out of five breast cancer patients will develop lymphedema within three years of surgery.
- 90 percent of lymphedema is secondary and acquired from cancer or some type of trauma to the lymphatic system.
- Therefore, Musone suggested the following tips for two compression categories that HME providers should have in-store:
- Compression sleeves and gloves — Women with lymphedema in their arm will need these garments to help manage their condition. Providers should display garments in popular colors or prints to promote the fashionable aspect of the medically necessary garment. They should also have swatches to show women available colors and prints that match their taste and lifestyle.
- Compression socks, leggings and stockings — Women with venous disease or poor circulation will need support for their legs and calves. Carry garments in a range of materials (sheer and opaque), full panty hose or leggings) to match the amount of support the women needs, as well as her preferred comfort. As with sleeves, have a variety of color and print options available for her to shop for in store.
Howard recommended that HME providers stock knee high, thigh high, and pantyhose in the most common compression levels of 15-20 mmHg, 20-30 mmHg, and 30-40 mmHg. There are many styles in a variety of material and color options that are usually based on the preferences of the local demographics.
Paula Pederson, Women’s Apparel Consultant and CMF fitter at Bellaforma Boutique, says that they keep several levels of compression on stock, products have a compression level of 15-20 mmHg.
COMPRESSION OUTSIDE OF SPECIFIC HEALTH NEEDS
Women can use compression products as a preventative measure, so HME providers should consider all women who enter their store as potential compression consumers.
“Women wear compression for travel; DVT/edema prevention; evening or occupational edema; tired, achy legs; exercise; and while on-the-go,” says Handschin. “SIGVARIS offers fashionable options to meet every woman’s lifestyle, such as women who sit or stand for long periods of time.”
Musone added that compression can help alleviate discomfort and add support to daily activities, especially if you suffer from the following:
- Swelling and stiffness
- Poor circulation/restricted blood flow
- Muscle fatigue
He also says that if you work in any of the following occupations, you could benefit by combining Juzo compression garments with more varied movement during your days and evenings:
- Healthcare professionals (nurses, physicians, etc.)
- Manufacturing and construction
“Low- and high-impact exercise can leave us fatigued,” Musone says. “So it’s important to keep muscles warm after your workout, loosen them up and increase circulation to help reduce your chances of developing stiff and sore muscles. And traveling long distances and sitting in cramped spaces for an extended period of time may result in poor circulation, swelling and discomfort. During long flights, try getting up, stretching and walking about the cabin frequently, in addition to wearing a compression garment.”
Questions that Howard recommended asking female customers who are in your store and may not be shopping specifically for compression include:
- Do you experience tired, achy legs?
- Do you sit or stand for long periods of time?
- Do you experience swelling?
- Do you travel often?
- “When a woman comes in to buy a breast pump, prenatal vitamins, etc., indicating pregnancy, you compression during and after pregnancy.”
- Musone also had questions that HME providers should ask female patrons to test their need for compression.
- If they are buying a chair lift, comfortable shoes, or any lower extremity product, ask if they are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Tired achy legs
- Varicose veins
- Spider veins
- Do they have a family history of poor circulation or blood clots?
- Have they experienced a recent injury to a lower extremity (wearing a cast or buying crutches)?
- Have they had a recent surgery or radiation in areas with condensed lymph nodes, i.e., under arms or groin area? Are they buying cancer-related products?
- When selling to women, you better be knowledgeable about their condition and be able to recommend the best product for their symptoms — giving specific reasons why. Women ask more questions than men and want to feel confident in their purchasing decisions.
- Women are also more detail-oriented and will to them, such as comfort, style or ease of use. Dealers should be prepared to speak to the medical benefits and the stylistic attributes, as well.
- Pay attention to women’s body language to and an overall good experience. She is more likely to refer you to a friend if she not only purchases a great product, but also enjoys the experience in the store. Friendly staff, a pleasant environment, extra touches, such as a gift with purchase or snacks, go a long way. Also, extending the conversation beyond the transaction — such as asking about activity level, hobbies, daily routines, upcoming events or vacations — go a long way, demonstrating that she means more to you than just closing a sale.
SIGVARIS offers a Basic Fitter Seminar, as well as a Certified Compression Specialist Training Course. These courses are not women-specific but cover women’s compression needs. Visit wwwsigvaris.com/usa/en-us/ sigvaris-basic-fitter-seminar-sigvaris-certified-compression-specialist-training-course for more information.
In addition to these courses, SIGVARIS offers additional online training and continuing education advanced courses. Please visit www.sigvaris
education.com for additional information.
Juzo Academy offers live and online courses. Various programs offer fitters both ABC and BOC credits. Learn more at www.juzoacademy.com. Class titles include:
- Breast Cancer Related Lymphedema and the Role of Compression Therapy
- Why Compression Therapy for Venous Disease?
- The Importance of Exercise for Lymphedema Patients
- Beyond Customs-Know Your Options!
- Lymphedema and Compression Therapy
- Understanding Venous Disease and Compression Therapy
- Everything Compression for the Advanced Fitter
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of HME Business.