Reporter's Notebook: Medtrade Spring 2008

Let's get it out of the way: Yes, this year's edition of Medtrade Spring was much lighter than usual on the mobility/rehab manufacturer front. Many exhibitors we've gotten used to seeing in Vegas did not make the trip to Long Beach, Calif. Of mobility/rehab exhibitors that did come, many had noticeably smaller booths. Traffic was lighter, too, though a number of exhibitors mentioned the traffic was better than they'd expected. That being said, there was still plenty of news to report from the show floor, and comments to report afterward:

-- Amysystems was showing off its new power bases, currently in the midst of Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and HCPCS coding approvals and processes. Amysystems has designed rear-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive versions, in standard adult sizes and in compact sizes that can fit some kids. Amysystems will continue to supply the power seating systems for which it is best known.

-- Computer Applications Unlimited's (CAU) Brian Williams, the company's director of sales and marketing, said after the event, "We anticipated fewer attendees, but it wasn't as bad as expected. The quality of attendees seemed better than 2007." Williams also gave Long Beach a positive vote: "I personally liked the size and accessibility of the Long Beach Convention Center as compared to Las Vegas. Because the area is set up so much differently, Long Beach offers more casual surroundings, yet seems more conducive to business." CAU, Williams said, plans to exhibit at Medtrade in the fall.

-- Golden Technologies has a new ad campaign to highlight the retail aspects of its product lines, which include lift chairs, scooters and power chairs. One of the "stars" of the new campaign is the breathable Ultraleather Brisa fabric, which we contentedly experienced by sinking into one of Golden's lift chairs after a long day spent walking the show floor. Also in the Golden booth: New removable shrouds for the Golden Compass center-wheel-drive power chair. Each Compass comes standard with one shroud set, but dealers can order additional shrouds (black, blue, green or red) to give customers the chance to change things up (and to increase their retails sales, too). More good news: The shrouds can be retrofitted to older Compass chairs, as well.

-- After the show, Golden Technologies Communications Manager Pat O'Brien said, "The floor clearly wasn't as busy as it has been at Medtrade Spring events." But she added, "It was important for Golden to exhibit at Medtrade as a show of support to our dealers in particular and to the industry in general. Without exhibitors, there is no show; there are no educational sessions, or the educational sessions would be more expensive for dealers to attend. It was obvious that attendance was substantially lower than Medtrade Spring 2007. But the quality of attendees was still very high. We had many Golden dealers stopping at our booth and had many good business discussions during the show." And O'Brien said of Medtrade fall, "We are proud to say that we will be exhibiting at Medtrade in Atlanta. We have great success in Atlanta; it's a good venue, and people go to that show to do business."

-- Merritt Manufacturing demonstrated the Roosevelt with EZ-Tether car seat, which includes a "Heads-Up" Positioning System. With a weight capacity range of 35 to 115 lbs., a new "quick-change" incontinence cover, and a "stay-put" pommel design, the Roosevelt was getting plenty of attention from attendees who work with kids in need of positioning in the car.

-- Motion Concepts had several new systems to show off, including an Ultra-Low Bariatric system with a seat that slides forward independently of the calf panel. This sliding system is designed to facilitate transfers for bariatric clients who could otherwise have a tough time maneuvering into the chair. This bariatric system offers 35 degrees of tilt while in the rearward position, has an 18.75-inch seat-to-floor height, and has a 600-lb. weight capacity. Also in the booth: Motion’s new Ultra Lift System, offering 10 inches of seat elevation via a scissor-design mechanism. The Ultra Lift retains low floor-to-seat heights and is optional with most of Motion's Ultra-Low power positioning systems.

-- Pride Mobility Products' highlights included the Victory 10 scooter, boasting low-profile, non-scuffing black tires and one-hand Feather-touch disassembly to make transportability easier than ever. Pride also showed off new brand names for its lift chairs: the Elegance Collection, the Heritage Collection, the Specialty Collection and the Classic Collection -- reminiscent of how furniture companies name their products. Pride's Silver Star division demonstrated the Backpacker MV, a lift designed to fit into SUVs with a 31-inch opening height. The Backpacker MV features a one-piece, fully assembled drive-on/drive-off platform. Also turning heads in the booth was the Jazzy 614HD, with a 450-lb. weight capacity, enhanced inline motors and 6-inch casters front and rear to maximize stability.

-- After the event, Kirsten DeLay, senior VP of sales management & operational planning, and Ted Raquet, VP of domestic sales for Pride Mobility Products, called Medtrade Spring "positive overall" despite "an alternate venue that was not seen as desirable from a provider perspective." They said, "Despite traffic not being comparable to that in Las Vegas, it was better than expected. Our large providers remain loyal and faithful to the Medtrade show...Pride participated at Medtrade Spring because the feedback we received from our providers indicated that the show retained value to them." DeLay and Raquet added that Pride will exhibit at the fall show: "Based on support from Medtrade management and provider requests, we plan on attending Medtrade Fall in Atlanta. We believe there will be strong attendance at the fall show due to the primarily Californian attendee turnout at the spring show and the continued need for education in the HME industry."

-- The VGM Group hosted its (by this time, legendary) reception on Wednesday evening at the Renaissance Hotel. In honor of the Long Beach venue, the party was surfer themed, with VGM members, manufacturer guests and assorted other Medtrade Spring participants munching on crab cakes, potstickers and paninis. VGM & Associates President Ron Bendell said after the show, "We reduced the size of our booth and reduced staffing in anticipation of lower show attendance." He added, "The quality of the attendees who visited our booth and/or attended VGM seminars was excellent. We would have liked to have seen more. The overall experience was good, but less productive than past years." But Bendell said VGM's Medtrade fall plans "have not changed. We'll be exhibiting as we have in the past, with a full complement of VGM associates staffing our booth. Of course, we'll also have our VGM Gala, which will be bigger and better than ever."

Mobility Management Podcast