Therapeutic Footwear: “One of the strongest paths to HME retail success”

Posted on: February 19th, 2014 by Rob Baumhover

HME Retailers,

We’ve been talking a lot recently about simple ways to diversify your product mix to increase retail sales. Another reliable and sustainable product category for diversification, that maybe you haven’t considered yet, is Therapeutic Footwear. Specialty medical footwear is described in the article below as “one of the strongest paths to retail success within HME circles.” The article discusses the fact that with the right “patient-centric” sales and customer service approach, specialty shoes can generate consistent revenue, not only for your current customers (especially those with medical conditions such as diabetes), but can also help your business open its doors to new retail customers. Read on below to learn more about why the Therapeutic Footwear category is a must for HME Retailers, as well as how to get started offering these products, what to look for in a quality footwear manufacturer, and most importantly, how to be successful selling them!

 

Step Up Your Business With Therapeutic Footwear

by Charles Liberge, Orthofeet, Published in HomeCare Magazine

Increase sales and help improve customers’ foot health by mixing up your HME product offerings

The overall marketplace for HME/DME providers is more challenging than ever due to the continuously evolving health care system and competitive bidding. As providers remain on the lookout for reliable, sustainable business strategies, there is one retail model among several that stands out as a smart move: therapeutic footwear.

Specialty medical footwear is one of the strongest paths to retail success within HME circles. Managed with a patient-centric approach, sales of medical footwear can generate strong, consistent revenue opportunities from current customers, and they can also open doors to new ones. Above all, a footwear program provides a differentiating service for short- and long-term growth with products that are highly desirable to the community you serve.

If you already carry therapeutic footwear, determine whether or not you are maximizing sales opportunities. After all, everyone wears shoes—and as an HME provider, your customer base is predisposed to special footwear needs. Reach out to existing customers proactively through creative in-store display options. Many manufacturers offer retail display assistance to develop innovative ways to market these products to your expanding customer base. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to integrate therapeutic footwear seamlessly into your product lines.

Diabetes and Foot Care

If you are interested in developing a shoe program for diabetic customers, choose a brand that can partner with you effectively to increase your ability to develop a sustainable revenue stream.

A large portion of your current customer base likely suffers from diabetes, which automatically puts them in a high-risk group for medical foot problems. In addition to monitoring their blood glucose levels, watching their diets and staying active, adults with diabetes need to be vigilant about foot care. Diabetes patients are highly vulnerable to a variety of medical problems due to their compromised vascular system, including neuropathy, foot ulcers and, ultimately, lower 
extremity amputations.

More than 20 years ago, the government realized that therapeutic footwear could help prevent lower limb amputations in diabetes patients. They established the Therapeutic Shoe Bill, a law that enables Medicare to cover the cost of one pair of shoes and three inserts annually for qualified patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently cited the bill as one factor in the 65-percent decline in diabetes-
related amputations over the past 10 years.

Many diabetes patients simply don’t know about the benefit provided by the Therapeutic Shoe Bill. Increase awareness about this opportunity with your diabetes customers by helping them with the logistics of receiving the benefit—and at the same time reinforce your involvement in and concern for their well-being.

Critical Considerations

Mobility is never an issue until a customer becomes immobile. Imagine that your body is a house and your feet are the foundation. If something goes wrong with your feet, it is likely that your overall health will be negatively impacted.

For a diabetes patient with neuropathy, ill-
fitting footwear can lead to unnoticed irritation, which then leads to blisters, ulcers and potential amputations. Worse yet, some diabetes patients put themselves in harm’s way by wearing flip-flops or going barefoot around the house and yard. HME providers are in a direct position to help these customers understand their vulnerability to medical foot conditions and educate them about the importance of preventive foot care and proper footwear to maintain or improve their quality of life.

It’s Not Complicated

How do you add to your product mix and reinforce your connection with customers? How do you create a diversity of product offerings to efficiently meet your customer needs? A therapeutic footwear program is efficient, strengthening existing customer connections and creating a new stream of revenue for more business.

Contrary to what you may have heard, executing a therapeutic footwear program does not have to be a time-consuming or complicated process. It is likely that you are already dealing with Medicare reimbursements or similar programs with large insurance companies. The process behind therapeutic footwear is straightforward. Because of the extremely low overhead, your profit margins on shoes can be significant—in many cases, better than the margins on many of the durable goods already in your store.

Simplify the process by aligning with an established partner in the field that can help you navigate the process and build customer loyalty. By partnering with a company focused on the diabetes patient, you can actually lower the cost of 
acquiring new customers and more easily implement programs that expand your bottom line.

Orthofeet has pioneered an approach to meet the needs of the diabetes patient while reinforcing the connection to the HME provider. The representatives work with providers to facilitate 
the process with a hands-on, education-based program—with little cost to the provider, generating high returns with minimal risk. The opportunity to create a footwear business that is profitable and incremental is easy to break down.

Choose a Product Line

The best therapeutic footwear offers a combination of technology, style and function. Look for a line that is biomechanically designed to provide comfort, protection and enhanced mobility—with a range of fashion-forward styles that will appeal to customers. Key attributes 
to look for when selecting a line of Medicare-approved shoes:

-Protective seamless lining
-Extra depth in the toe area
-Stretchable, nonbinding uppers
-Ergonomic sole that assists natural stride
-Flat foot bed to allow for inserts and orthotics
-Wide range of styles to fit customer preferences
-New Shoe Trends

The marketplace is experiencing a dramatic evolution in therapeutic footwear styles. Athletic-inspired footwear is changing the category momentum. As in most industries, the trend follows the customer.

Customers ages 50 and older are part of the Nike generation: They were the first to wear sneakers to school, to church or even with a 
suit. This generation grew up wearing athletic shoes for all occasions and for most of their 
waking hours.

As they age and begin to develop problems with their feet, many health care providers 
prescribe shoes that simply don’t match their 
perception of style. Old-fashioned styles convey the stigma of a medical issue. Patients diagnosed with diabetes are adjusting to management of the disease (using monitoring devices and modifying eating habits). A handful of companies are now offering products that prevent these patients from having to make drastic changes to their fashion tastes and personal style choices.

With the contemporary design and development capabilities available in today’s market, there is no reason a medical patient’s footwear should look different than any other commercial footwear in the marketplace. The trend in therapeutic shoes is to close the gap between medical footwear and commercial footwear—to match a patient’s desire to continue wearing athletic shoes. It’s about creating a healthy attitude around footwear fashion—while continuing to better the overall foot health of your customers.

About the author:
Charles Liberge is the EVP of Sales and Business Development at 
Orthofeet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a footwear and apparel executive.

To view the original article, click here.