The back story: Wayne Slavitt was trying to find a few HME items for his mother and mother-in-law, and it was proving impossible to find selection, knowledgeable sales staff and—did we say selection?—all in one place. So, short story: He opened Mobül’: The Home Mobility Store. It's what Slavitt calls "a fresh concept in home medical equipment stores." And the No. 1 mission is to provide multiple solutions in one place. Mobül’s two storefront locations (one in Long Beach, the other in Fountain Valley, California) are upwards of 3,500 square feet, and they feature the largest selection of home medical and mobility equipment in Southern California.
"I have never been enamored with any government program," Slavitt says, when asked why he chose a retail-only concept from the get-go. "One month before opening our first store, competitive bidding started. We had made the decision to be 100 percent cash retail from day one, but the 46 percent average reduction in Medicare reimbursements for HME products under competitive bidding convinced us that this decision was correct."
In addition, when looking at the boomer and aging in place markets, it's clear that most people want to stay in their homes. One of Slavitt's personal goals is helping individuals maintain their dignity by remaining as independent as possible, and the Mobül stores carry a variety of aging in place items that will keep seniors safe without turning their homes into a lookalike nursing facility or hospital.
As a nod to the great work he is doing in the SoCal community, in February Slavitt was accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, which is an investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs by providing greater access to education, capital and support services.
We knew Slavitt would have plenty of advice, tips and inspiration to share with you, so keep reading for more about what makes Slavitt and Mobül so successful.
Aging in Place
The Long Beach flagship store holds a four-room "house" to give customers a tangible look at products that will aid with aging in place. Rooms include bath, living, bed and kitchen. (We were intrigued by the elevating sink that raises 18 inches to accommodate wheelchair users! [see to the right]) Mobül also offers free in-home inspections to identify areas that need improvement. The bathroom setup is popular because of the emphasis on fall prevention; Mobül's top sellers for aging in place include lift chairs, scooters, grab bars and rails. And, as Slavitt points out, "As boomers continue to retire, we envision more fashion and style being part of that mix." For now, his typical customer is female, between the ages of 45 and 60, shopping for her parents.
Free educational events and classes at the store's "university" are part of Slavitt's commitment to community. These classes feature experts who teach on a variety of topics. "There are so many great solutions for our customers, but that can be overwhelming," says Slavitt. "So we bring in resources from our community—people who work full-time in their fields—to share their knowledge with our customers." Past classes included topics such as exercise and aging, fall prevention, balance training, building an action plan for successful aging, family Alzheimer's training and managing caregiver stress. "It's important to care for yourself while caring for others," he points out, "so it's not just about the end user but also about helping caregivers stay healthy. We'll sometimes bring in a group of caregivers and just show them products—no strings attached!—and educate them. It's cool for them to take in all of the products in one place, like a candy store!"
Schooling the Competition
Students from the California State University Long Beach Industrial Design studio are currently working on reimagining mobility products for a Mobül-sponsored design competition. They began the process with a store visit, tour and Q&A with Slavitt before choosing the products they wanted to work with.
"We're lucky to be less than one mile from the school," Slavitt says. "We tap into the benefits of their schooling and knowledge to see what they can come up with. It's so cool to hear why the students choose the products they do." The purpose is to personalize the market to make it more relevant, and then take some good ideas to manufacturers.
Mobül awards three prizes during the competition, to be completed this month. (Look for coverage of the winners in the April issue of HomeCare.)
Did Someone Say Free Delivery?
Mobül offers free delivery up to 25 miles, and employs a full-time delivery driver and repair person. Their white-glove service includes set-up and education. "We take a lot of extra care," says Slavitt. "For example, on Golden lift chairs, there is a transformer that requires two 9-volt batteries [not included]. A lot of people don't even know they're there—we put in the batteries and show them how to change them later." Above all: "We treat people the way we want to be treated," he says."People try to make it complicated but it's very simple."
At a Glance
Software: QuickBooks POS and Financial
Do-over decision: More emphasis on outside marketing from the beginning
Smartest decision: Hiring quality people
Marketing 101: Full-time staff marketing professional; resources devoted to cable TV, online marketing and community events.
Top sellers: Lift chairs and scooters (Mobul is Golden's only 4-star dealer within 100 miles; They keep around 25 lift chairs on the floor.)
2016 Merchandise focus: High quality mobility products and technology products
Stand-out service: Includes warranty support, in-house repairs and same-day delivery when possible (store record: 30 minutes from purchase to delivery and set-up of a lift chair)
Claim to fame: Slavitt is on the small screen! Search "Mobül: The Home Mobility Store" on youtube.com for videos.
Photos: Lana Farfan, Caught in the Moment Photography