Sunrise: Reaction to Guardian Sale Is “Extremely Favorable”

The last two years have been a time of evolution and transition for Sunrise Medical. In 2007, Sunrise split its mobility and respiratory into two separate companies, with the sleep disorder and respiratory divisions forming DeVilbiss Healthcare. Sunrise also announced that Joerns Healthcare was taking over sales and customer service for Sunrise’s Hoyer patient lifts.

Then in November 2008, Sunrise announced it was further narrowing its focus by selling its Guardian line of products — largely composed of patient aids, walking aids, bath safety equipment and scooters — to Medline Industries. Sunrise Chairman/President/CEO Michael N. Cannizzaro called the move “an important step in our strategy of being the industry’s leading mobility and seating company.”

The Future of Sunrise Medical

So what does this latest action say about the future of Sunrise Medical?
“It’s a focusing in on rehab mobility products and the seating systems that go along with them, (and) utilizing our resources that we have internally for that sole purpose,” said Michael Proffitt, Sunrise’s VP of marketing & product management.

In an interview with Mobility Management, Proffitt explained that Sunrise will continue to carry its Easy Care line of standard wheelchairs “because they do lend themselves to us being focused on mobility.”

But as for Sunrise’s potential future interest in developing and selling scooters again, Proffitt said, “Not in the foreseeable future.”

How the A.R.T. Group Figures In

While scooters aren’t in Sunrise’s future, the A.R.T. Group — the Sunrise-owned positioning division made up of Adaptive Equipment Systems, KidKart, Rehabilitech, ShurShape and Whitmyer Biomechanix — very definitely is.

“They’re ideally situated as we start looking at the customized seating systems that our products need to be equipped with,” Proffitt said. “A.R.T. is an integral player in providing the whole solution to our clientele.”

Proffitt added that while Sunrise and the A.R.T. Group will continue to work closely together — “We’ve always had a close relationship with them, so we continue to see that relationship increasing, if you will” — he said that the A.R.T. Group would also continue to work on developing positioning systems and solutions beyond Sunrise’s scope of products.

“I think A.R.T.’s strategy all along has been to provide the best seating systems for the clients in the marketplace,” Proffitt noted “That is their A-number-one goal…. We do a tremendous amount of products that are outside Sunrise, and we don’t want to exclude those customers from receiving a good product like what A.R.T. offers.”

Ongoing Transition Process

As this issue went to press in December, Proffitt said Sunrise and Medline were in transition regarding the Guardian product lines. Sunrise providers, Proffitt added, had been informed that Medline had acquired Guardian product lines and that providers “will be purchasing the HME products, absent the standard wheelchairs, from Medline as opposed to Sunrise.”

Provider reaction, he said, was “extremely favorable. They see this as a way for Sunrise to really strengthen (our) position in the marketplace and really becoming that player in the rehab mobility space.”

Sunrise retains its Jay division of seating products and its Quickie division of power and manual wheelchairs, in addition to the Easy Care standard wheelchair line and The A.R.T. Group.

Regarding future technology developments, Proffitt said, “We still have a very robust R&D team that will now be even more laser focused on the rehab space.” The company will continue to attend rehab-targeted industry events, he added:

“We’ll be attending ISS (International Seating Symposium). We’re actually very excited about it. We have some exciting things planned for that.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Mobility Management.

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