Opening the ADL Floodgates
The positive sales figures in aids to daily living (ADL) products are fueled by a potent mix of demand and seemingly never-ending complications to the reimbursement realms of private insurance and Medicare. “Competitive bidding has pushed people into having to look elsewhere,” says Jo-Ann Tilghman, president and founder of Granny Jo Products, which is based in Lakeland, Fla. “Providers must make up the difference somewhere else. They are increasing their retail offerings because they must if they want to survive.”
The much-hyped Baby Boom Generation, still in its relative infancy, is indeed fueling demand. While some Boomers do need ADL products, others are diligently acting as caregivers for elderly parents. These Boomers are looking for products, but the search is still not all that easy.
Why the difficulty? Tilghman maintains that despite the undeniably favorable demographics, the ADL market is drastically overlooked. “You have Babies R’ Us, Toys R’ Us, and Kids R’ Us, but no large senior retailer,” she muses. “Look at Target, J.C. Penney, or Macy’s—no one has a designated senior area. They are missing a huge opportunity and leaving it to the HME/DME people.”
Claiming the market before the “big guys” figure it out is something that a growing number of home-care providers are valiantly attempting to do. One such retailer is Martha Hansen, owner of YOUCAN TOOCAN, a 3,800 square-foot store in Denver that is completely devoted to retail cash sales.
In business since 1994, Hansen has meticulously built a reliable base of word-of-mouth referrals. Most of those positive recommendations are due to knowledgeable one-on-one encounters with customer service. “The big boxes are a concern to us,” admits Hansen, who devotes 3,650 square feet out of 3,800 in total to showroom space. “If people are just looking for price, we can’t compete. But we have professional sales staff—OTs, PTs, low vision and hearing specialists, and social workers who are aging specialists. They are here to help people decide and show them the various options. We also service the products if they need repair.”