Mobility: Building on the Initial Sale
How can providers better understand retail power mobility accessory opportunities, and how can they expand their sales volume?
- By Joseph Duffy
- Dec 01, 2017
Pinning down the exact value and expected growth of the power mobility market (electronic wheelchairs and scooters) is difficult, but one company, Wintergreen Research, recently reported that the power wheelchair market was a $1.5 billion industry in 2015 and is expected to reach $2.4 billion by 2022. Unsurprisingly, the report said that this market growth comes in large part from the aging population.
According to information published by power wheelchair manufacturer Kd Healthcare, about 2 million new manual and power wheelchair users are added every year, of which 1.825 million users are age 65 and older.
Similarly, another report said the global scooter market could reach $2.4 billion worldwide by 2021.
For the savvy HME power mobility provider, the growth of this industry is also the chance to increase cash sales via the plethora of available power mobility accessories. But although accessories can make for good retail sales, there are challenges.
“In the power chair and scooter market the need [for accessories] is broad,” said Greg Packer, President, U.S. Rehab. “This is part of the reason that retail sales has not picked up for the industry. Stocking the number of items in the color wanted or having the right item for the right equipment is very difficult. Cup holders are somewhat easy, but holders for smartphones or computers are much more difficult. The auto industry has many aftermarket providers and manufacturers, but the power chair and scooter market does not. Limited supply and choice make the market less appealing to consumers.”
Packer said that the top power mobility accessories include backpacks or bags, baskets, covers and canopies, wheels, casters colored or lighted, lights, lap trays, gloves, flags, hand rims, and mounting brackets for electronics.
According to Wayne Slavitt, Founder and CEO of Mobül: the mobility store, a power mobility business’s total revenue probably falls between 1 percent and 5 percent from accessories. Part of the reason, he said, could be because most retailers don’t think about selling accessories because selling the power mobility unit is challenging enough. This is where a solid marketing plan can really help a provider.
“How much is made by accessories is determined by the provider’s willingness to set pricing based on what margins are needed to make a profit,” Packer says. “Margins on Medicare or insurance-based reimbursement are higher due to ancillary elements of the transaction. Reimbursable items are subject to audit and prior authorization — so there’s an element of risk associated with those products.
“Cash sales, on the other hand, are final,” he adds. “Providers of complex mobility equipment often don’t offer an extensive inventory of accessories because they’re focused on fitting the patient with the correct equipment to lead as independent a life as possible. Often times they aren’t trained in ‘caretailing’ or suggesting incremental sales items like power mobility accessories to transactions. VGM’s Retail division has developed programs that help providers integrate strategies and techniques to increase incremental sales.”
Breaking Things Down
George Turturiello, ATP, CRTS, a Mobility Specialist for Northeast Accessibility/
Northeast Med-Equip in Honesdale, PA, pointed out possible accessories for the following power mobility patient groups:
- The at-home basic group 2 user — These users mainly have a chair to go around the house due to balance, stability and stamina issues. These can be anything from heart conditions to respiratory. This can be the widest range of maladies. This group can use the simple over-the-counter accessories, reachers, canes, and sock assists, all the way to walkers and rollators. For DME pharmacies, accessories take on a whole new avenue, ranging from pill cutters to feeding aids. You can even count support hose, diabetic shoes and back braces as an accessory to the original piece of power equipment.
- The outdoor scooter or group 2 and simple group 3 users — These individuals need mobility outdoors due to living arrangement or distances. Conditions can be as in the home basic group. These individuals can accessorize their units with baskets, canes or crutch holders, and oxygen caddies if needed. Some opt for side bags or saddle bags to carry more personal items (phones, wallets, cigarettes, and so on).
- The complex rehab user — This user has the high-end accessories, from flip away laterals to removable hip guides for transfers. We can add everything from lights to a USB power port for phone charging. These items can be coded or miscellaneous as referred to by the Medicare fee schedule. When considering what accessories to carry, remember that most items for power mobility units are not purchased over and over, said Packer.
“Cup holders can get damaged when hit and are sometimes repurchased,” he says. “Backpacks and bags do wear out and are purchased for replacement when needed. Most other wear items are considered repairs and after warranty are a purchase item by the insurance provider. Red tape is one of the biggest issues with retail sales in that if the item is reimbursed for any Medicare patient, you are unable to sell without specific criteria and an ABN.
“Non-participating providers can sell without this type of oversight,” he notes. “There is an opportunity to suggest incremental sales items like power mobility accessories when the equipment is being repaired or serviced. If educated properly, a provider’s staff should suggest accessories and offer to have them installed while the equipment is in for service. This provides a great opportunity to connect with the customer and provide additional service by installing the accessory or other item during the visit.”
The accessories that Slavitt said should be top of mind for power mobility accessory sales include rear baskets, flags, cup holders, and cell phone holders. His tips for selling more power mobility accessories include:
- Attach accessories to the power mobility products on display. When customers or caregivers see a cup holder, cell phone holder, basket, etc., they view it as a necessary accessory.
- Package a few accessories together at a discount.
- Offer customers a gift certificate to purchase accessories within 10 days at a discount.
- Use accessories as a sales incentive. For example, offer a free basket with every scooter purchase.
Also, working with caregivers can help a provider make even make more accessory sales.
“Caregivers want to make the client more comfortable and their work easier at the same time,” said Turturiello. “They can recommend everything from a walker to an electric patient lifter, from a raised commode to a lift chair. These items are all accessories. You don’t need these items to survive but they make life easier.”
Slavitt said that getting caregivers to support their client’s independence will help you make more accessory sales.
“We are very big at promoting independence,” he said. “If having a nice basket helps our customer to be independent at some level, the caregiver should be fully supportive of it. What a nice role reversal for the customer to be able to help out the caregiver by putting groceries, for example, in the scooter basket. All of a sudden, the customer feels valuable.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of HME Business.
Joseph Duffy is a freelance writer and marketing consultant, and a regular contributor to HME Business. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.