Helping Your Retail Business Thrive During COVID-19

There are some unexpected categories that can help providers keep their revenues flowing despite the public health emergency. A primary example is active-support footwear.


At 2 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 10, Carol Kommers of Benefis Spectrum Medical and Brandon Noble CO, LO of Vionic Group LLC will host a free webinar on the 5 R's to Footwear Retail Success.


With the COVID -19 public health emergency still very much in effect, many providers are looking for ways to reinvigorate their revenues, including their retail receipts The key lies in offering the right product mix, but many providers have not given all the options the attention they deserve. One such category is footwear.


The reason footwear is such an important category for providers’ retail sales is that their customers are leading more relaxed, informal lives now that COVID-19 has them spending so much more time in and around their homes. Moreover, with a greater focus on wellness as part of their daily activities, they want footwear that facilitates that lifestyle.

“The consumer is home more, they’re playing their own backyard and space more than they ever have. And even if they are venturing out, typically it’s in a car on a road trip, and not spending as much time in the airport for business or any other reason,” says Brandon Noble, CO, LO, director of Professional Sales for footwear maker Vionic Group LLC. “Therefore what the market is telling us is that leisure, athletic, comfort — you know, ‘slippers at home, sneakers outdoors’ — are where the consumer wants to be.”

Understanding the Context

Also, with the public health emergency not offering any signs of letting up, plus many businesses realizing considerable cost savings from work-at-home arrangements, it’s likely this consumer trends will continue, which means providers can expect an ongoing market for active-support footwear.

What’s active-support footwear? Key active-support footwear features include strong orthotic support inside the shoe to help the foot realign with its natural position, and good heel counter strength so that the shoe offers real support in the back around the heel, according to Noble.

That context is critical for marketing, merchandising and selling active-support footwear. Providers must source the types of footwear that fits into the context of their HME businesses. Providers already offer health and wellness products, so the footwear must-have features and styling that will reflect that. That way, those types of footwear products will be right at home in the HME provider business.

“You don’t want to sell any old athletic or fashion shoe,” Noble says. “You want something that will provide support and relief and fit the wellness model that is at the heart of DME retail.

“It’s one of those categories that we just don’t about because we have blinders on so that we only think about standard DME products,” he continues. “But the benefit is that if you get two or three people wearing the footwear, and you become a destination for multiple purposes.”

And HME providers are in a perfect spot to serve up these sorts of footwear solutions.

“A lot these patients are already coming through providers’ doors for other reasons, so we might as well take the approach of being a one-stop shop for their customers,” Noble says, explaining that customers are already looking for this type of footwear, but if they’re already going to a provider for other needs, now they’ll be getting the service and support from providers that they trust.

What to Stock

In terms of specific shoe categories, there are three main types of active-support footwear that are currently popular and that providers will want to stock: athletic, slippers and a hybrid category called “athleisure” footwear.

“Athleisure is a more athletic-inspired ‘feel,’ but with more fashion to it,” Noble explains. “Something that is typically worn with a pair of yoga pants or a nice pair of jeans but can be dressed up a little bit more than your standard athletic shoe. It can be worn in the day and at night.”

So, how do providers get started? Noble says education is the first key. To that end, he and Carol Kommers, customer service and merchandise manager at HME provider business Benefis Spectrum Medical, will present “Discover the 5 R’s to Footwear Retail Success,” a free Sept. 10 webinar that gives providers a game plan for entering this key retail category.

The event will help providers:

  • Understand how associates control success destiny
  • Ascertain how location is of utmost importance in merchandising
  • Understand how training, incentive, and culture will lead to success
  • Comprehend the marketing and merchandising presences need to make it work
  • Understand the revenue game

The webinar begins at 2 p.m. Eastern and will run for an hour, with time for a question-and-answer session with the speakers. Click here to learn more and register.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher HME Business, DME Pharmacy and Mobility Management magazines. He was Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy from 2008 to 2023. Follow him on LinkedIn at and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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