Hoveround Opens Retail Location in Wal-Mart

Hoveround Opens Retail Location in Wal-Mart

Sarasota, Fla.

Hoveround Corp. opened its first retail location in a St. Petersburg, Fla., Wal-Mart Supercenter last month.

“Between 150,000 and 200,000 people a week walk through the store,” said Calvin Cole, director of corporate development and governmental affairs for Hoveround. “From a demographic and awareness standpoint, we want to be there.”

Cole said the new store focuses on Hoveround’s core competency: mobility. Located up front near the cash registers, the 600-square-foot space includes the company’s power wheelchairs and scooters, lift chairs from Golden Technologies, rollators and manual wheelchairs from Sunrise Medical and ramps from Prairie View Industries. He added that non-core business will be referred to other local DME dealers.

Both third-party payer and cash sales are accepted, though Cole said that, because of the retail setting, the company expects “cash sales will predominate with scooters, lift chairs and other mobility assist devices.”

As to opening additional Wal-Mart locations, Cole said, Hoveround is looking at the St. Petersburg store as a test and “is going to move slow.” But, he continued, with the opportunity for exposure to the giant retailer’s foot traffic, “it would be foolish to discount the possibilities.”

Hoveround moved into the location under an agreement with Boston-based Companion Health Services, which has a master lease arrangement with Wal-Mart. Since late 2003, the company has sublet space to a growing list of HME companies – among them Apria and The Scooter Store – that currently operate at 48 Wal-Mart stores in 24 states. Hoveround’s location is the 49th.

With Wal-Mart building on sales of $256 billion last year, a Jan. 10 report from market research firm Retail Forward says company sales could hit $500 billion by 2010 and capture 12 percent of all non-auto/non-gasoline retail sales in the United States.

Beyond in-store sales, Cole continued, locating in Wal-Mart will increase awareness of the Hoveround brand, and there’s another plus: “Who shops at Wal-Mart? The doctors, the referral sources, PTs, OTs. It’s a good place to extend our hand and let them know what we’re all about.”

“In this industry, HMEs have tended to shy away from retail,” said Companion Health President Kimberly Mairs. “Now that we have proven success, there have been many more providers who have been embracing the opportunity … Over 138 million people shop at Wal-Mart,” she said. “That’s half of the population. How can you go wrong?”

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