Retail. Upcare. Caretail. Do any of these words sound familiar to you? If you’re interested in either moving to or adding a retail component to your company, then I certainly hope they do. If they don’t, please reach out to me.
Retail offerings in our industry are nothing new. Many of us have seen products for decades that we can offer on a retail level to our clients in trade publications such as HomeCare magazine, various industry conferences and expositions, walking through big-box stores, on our social media feeds, on traditional media such as television and radio, and now we should focus on making sure we see them in local brick-and-mortar “mom and pop” stores.
Around the second half of the previous decade, I finally entered the industry to work for my family’s retail-based durable and home medical equipment and supply company. Immediately, I became enthralled and wanted to learn everything I could. I would attend as many DME/HME conference and expo events as I could find (at the time I only knew about Medtrade) looking for new product ideas. I’d be looking for new innovative products that would disrupt my local market, or I would look for newly-designed products that would take a traditional concept and solution to a whole new level (i.e., not your grandma’s
Where are we now, and where are we going?
Many of today’s shoppers have a tendency to begin their shopping on the internet. Shoppers will search (albeit usually without much knowledge of what they are looking for) and find many websites full of products, message boards where people share their experiences and recommendations, and local businesses that might offer the product they’re searching for. Sure, they can buy online and have something delivered right to their home, but in some cases, do they have the time to wait? In most cases, do they know the difference in quality between various brands or models that a local dealer and expert would know? Does the average consumer know how to assemble the doohickey into the whatchamacallit and if the device is assembled correctly, to make sure she doesn’t fall the first time she uses it?
There is no reason to believe (and I’d argue there is more reason to believe) that consumer purchasing habits will ultimately result in consumers presenting their final questions, performing final evaluations and making their final purchases at brick-and-mortar stores. I especially feel that when it comes to user experience, and especially user safety, quality of product and peace of mind, that a local source for pre- and post-purchase support—a trusted source to return to as needs advance or change through time, will be critical not only for the prolonged health of our customer base, but of our respective retail stores as well.
It is important for communities to have a store that is a trustworthy source of knowledge and offers products to serve their specific needs—needs that aren’t fulfilled by the internet, or by Medicare, or most other payer sources, by their trusted physicians or hospitals, or their local big-box store.
It is ultimately up to you and me and our teams to fulfill all these needs for our customer base. It is up to us to stay up-to-date on legislative activity, to keep up with ideas through our niche media such as HomeCare magazine, and to monitor the health and operations of our trusted manufacturers and wholesalers. At our fingertips is a supply of information and education given to us by our member service organizations and vendors on the training we should be getting for our teams.
Ultimately, we are in business for our friends, neighbors, family and our communities. They are depending on us. They trust us. They are the ones who believe in us and ultimately support us.