The Home Depot: Partnering with NSM “the Right Thing to Do for Our Customers”

A new business partnership between National Seating & Mobility (NSM) and The Home Depot will bring accessibility products and education to consumers on a nationwide scale.

The Home Depot is adding Independent Living Centers to its retail locations, beginning with those in the Northeastern United States. Those Independent Living Centers will offer accessibility equipment such as stairlifts and vertical platform lifts, and will list NSM as The Home Depot’s Independent Living partner.

While initial efforts will focus on such turnkey solutions as ramps, The Home Depot and NSM intend to expand into larger-scale offerings, such as home renovations, as the Independent Living program proceeds.

A National Footprint & a National Need

Isaac Rodriguez, NSM’s Senior VP Strategic Development, told Mobility Management that NSM’s expansive presence in North America was a plus for The Home Depot.

“Initially, when the NSM team met with the Home Depot leadership team, we saw a great synergy with footprint,” Rodriguez said. “NSM has an international footprint, being in Canada as well, but also a strong footprint in the U.S., operating branches nationwide. We had great overlap with The Home Depot, and most of our locations have presence where The Home Depot also has presence. So from an operations standpoint, we saw a lot of opportunity there, and I would say from a cultural standpoint, we share the same culture of committing to doing the right thing for the people that we serve. We have a focus on service excellence.”

Woman using a stairlift in her home

Brian Worcester, The Home Depot’s Senior Manager, Independent Living, agreed that the two companies’ complementary values were critical to the partnership decision.

“One of the things we do at The Home Depot is we always ask ourselves ‘Is it right for our customers?’” Worcester said. “We know we can launch any number of programs in our stores and have them be a success just based on our foot traffic. But we ask if it’s right for our customers, and we really balance that against our values.”

During meetings with NSM, Worcester noted, “We saw that their values tied very closely to The Home Depot’s values. But when we ask if it’s right for our customers, absolutely: It’s the right thing to do. You look at a growing population of people with physical disabilities, meaning the ability to move around their homes, and how do we make it easier for them to stay in their homes? Particularly in the Northeast, where I’m from, you see homes here that were built in the 1700s and 1800s, and they’re just not equipped for people with physical disabilities. We felt it was the right time: It fits the values of both NSM and The Home Depot, and there’s a growing population.”

While NSM is best known for providing Complex Rehab Technology seating and wheelchairs, the company has also worked hard to expand its home accessibility business so it could fully serve individuals with disabilities — a mission that NSM calls “NSM360.”

“Prior to partnering with The Home Depot around independent living and home access solutions, NSM really saw the need in a growing population of customers shopping for their loved ones or people trying to get out of a highly acute [care] facility or skilled nursing facility and being in the home,” Rodriguez said. “We are seeing that not only in our core customers who use complex wheelchairs, but a whole new client base that could benefit from the solutions of home access.”

Educating & Empowering Consumers

Education will be a big mission for both NSM and The Home Depot. While consumers increasingly want to “age in place” in their homes, not everyone is aware of the services and products to help them do so safely.

“Part of home accessibility is the digital marketing capability to reach out to people to make them aware of that,” Rodriguez said. “And with The Home Depot, we saw that they had a very strong value proposition around their digital marketing presence.”

Worcester said The Home Depot is looking to educate multiple generations of families: “Not only are you trying to get to the end user, you’re trying to talk to and talk with the loved ones of those end users, meaning ‘Here’s what we can offer your mom or your dad who has a physical limitation; how do you make them comfortable in their homes?’ That loved one who’s trying to make their mom or dad happy and comfortable becomes a customer as well.”

In areas where consumers may be adding home accessibility equipment a bit at a time using multiple suppliers, the NSM and The Home Depot partnership provides “the credibility of two national organizations coming together and providing service solutions that people can trust,” Rodriguez said. “One of our goals is to really maximize The Home Depot’s digital marketing presence so customers can see a trusted name for these solutions that they’re needing.”

Worcester pointed out that both The Home Depot and NSM have the same ultimate goal: “Particularly in the times that we’re in, keeping people with physical limitations in their homes and making them comfortable in their homes and making sure they’re safe and out of harm’s way is ultimately the goal of both NSM and The Home Depot. As part of that, the goal is to stay ahead of the curve. Both NSM and Home Depot looked down the road at where the population is going, where the needs are going to be of our customers, and we want to make sure we offer solutions to those needs. We also want to make sure we’re offering the complete project.”

The combined resources and expertise of the two companies give consumers additional flexibility and the comfort of knowing that NSM and The Home Depot can handle whatever home accessibility solutions are the best fit.

“We know some people want to do this piecemeal, but others are going to want to do this all at one shot,” Worcester said of home renovation plans. “And the partnership with National Seating & Mobility really allows us to offer that to our customers. If they’re coming in to get a grab bar, they now will know they have the option of having a partnership between National Seating & Mobility to come out and offer a full solution to the home in all one shot. And I think that’s very important for us and for NSM.

“And then on top of all that, another goal for The Home Depot was to do this with the right partner. We wanted to make sure we were working with the right people, because when NSM or Home Depot goes into a customer’s home, those brands carry a lot of weight. Having the right partner is very important to us because of the weight that carries for NSM’s customers and our customers.”

The Logistics of Getting Started

“We’re looking at portable and modular ramps, stairlifts, vertical lifts, door openers, and then we are going to be expanding into other programs,” Worcester said about how the Independent Living program will roll out. “We’re looking at doing barrier-free bathrooms, door widening. But for the initial kickoff, we won’t include those just yet.”

The Home Depot will track customers’ interests and accessibility needs as the program grows. “We want to be sure we offer a complete solution to our customers, a one-stop shop,” Worcester explained. And that means we have to get into other innovative solutions. There are probably going to be programs that spin off this that we haven’t even thought of yet. We’re going to have to make sure we’re flexible and nimble enough to adapt to our customers’ needs.”

Statistically, Rodriguez said home accessibility needs will keep expanding. “People are living longer,” he pointed out. “Fifty percent of people will be more than 50 years old by 2035. Ninety percent of people over 65 plan to remain in their home as they age; it’s a lower-cost solution. So as we think about the progression of somebody’s mobility concerns as they age in the home, there will more and more need for additional products.”

Rodriguez added that the current pandemic could also make aging at home, rather than in a long-term care facility, even more popular, but that home access changes will need to keep up. “I think there’s going to be a trend for people to discharge from hospitals and skilled nursing facilities and transition directly to the home,” he said. “Somebody that might need a mobility solution at age 60 might need another one at age 65 or 70 or 80,” he said. “So as we have a strong relationship with our core clients to offer those solutions and grow that exposure through The Home Depot, I think we have a great opportunity to reach those people who need these services and might not know exactly how to get them.”

The partnership has begun in the Northeastern United States and will expand from there.

“We’re starting in our New Jersey market and we’re going to continue to expand in the Northeast and Central regions,” Rodriguez said. “NSM has a list of a couple of dozen markets we think are important for The Home Depot and NSM to look at and plan to expand into just because of the need in that specific market. As we continue to grow and learn together, our goal is to cover the entire U.S. with the footprint we have and The Home Depot’s capabilities.”

Worcester added of the new partnership and program rollout, “One of the things we haven’t done in a while is roll out a new program. We want to make sure it sticks to the values and it sticks to the core need of our customers. We have brand-new systems to support this new program. This really is the tip of the iceberg. We’ll take it as far as it can go and continue to push it, understanding that the needs of our customers are going to continue to grow.”

A Personal NSM Connection

Worcester wasn’t just the main liaison for The Home Depot as it worked out the partnership deal with NSM. He’s also the dad of a young NSM client.

“My family is a personal user of National Seating & Mobility’s services,” he said. “My daughter has cerebral palsy, and I was so excited when I heard who our business partner was going to be, because they’ve done incredible work for us and have made our lives, and my daughter’s life, much easier. On a personal note, they’ve been phenomenal with us, and it’s been exciting to get into the business side with them.”

“Meeting with Brian and hearing his story and his family’s story just further reinforces that we have the right partner,” Rodriguez said. “And we have the right mission in mind to continue to serve people who I believe are underserved or served inefficiently in the country. This is one of many great opportunities to change the way we approach healthcare and how we approach solving issues with the cost of healthcare. I’m excited, and I’m proud to partner with The Home Depot.”

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