Just for Women Finds Its Own Space
Psst! Looking for that Sassybax bra that Oprah touts on her TV show? How about a nursing tank top, jewelry or a baby gift?
If you're like most folks, the last place you'd look for such items is a home medical equipment store. Sure, many HME companies carry mastectomy items, but things for well people? Not so much.
Which is exactly what makes the Just for Women boutique unusual.
Part of MeritCare HealthCare Accessories in Fargo, N.D., the boutique is charting new territory with its store, which offers not only mastectomy fittings and compression hosiery but also clothing, gift, candle, and baby lines of merchandise. And all of the latter are cash and carry.
That's a big bonus in this era of competitive bidding, depressed and declining reimbursement and snarls of red tape that HME providers face when dealing with Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies. The Just for Women boutique is seeing that boon in its bottom line — and to think all this success grew out of complaints.
The Downside of Change
Sheila Robertsdahl, CFOM (Certified Orthotic/Mastectomy Fitter), remembers when she first joined MeritCare. It was 1987, and MeritCare had just taken over a family-run orthotics and prosthetics company.
“When MeritCare came in, they brought in respiratory and the mastectomy line,” Robertsdahl recalls. Soon, the company offered a full line of durable medical equipment. It became accredited and expanded to its current four locations in North Dakota and two in Minnesota.
“In 1995, we decided to make a more private store for our women customers,” Robertsdahl says. “We carried mastectomy, turbans, compression and swimwear. It was very limited, but it was very well received because women were walking into a store, not a DME store.”
And that's the way it was for about five years. Then, things changed.
“Our store used to be in three locations in Fargo — orthotics and prosthetics, respiratory and mastectomy,” Robertsdahl explained. With a goal of having everything under one roof, MeritCare moved in 2000 to a brand new building.
Like the other DME areas, the mastectomy line had its own corner of the store. To get there, customers walked through wheelchairs, aids to daily living and assorted other DME.
“The women lost their privacy,” Robertsdahl says. And soon, MeritCare was seeing a loss of business.