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We’re a Real Company Selling through Real Companies

Written By: 
Marc Blitstein / President & CEO

When ADC was founded 36 years ago, we had a dozen or so competitors. Like us, they developed brands and sold them through retailers catering to different segments of the healthcare marketplace – from medical and nursing school book and uniform stores, to hospital, physician, nursing home, and EMS supply companies.

Today most of those competitors are gone, having sold out or gone out of business. But a new type of competitor has emerged.

I call these new entities virtual companies. For while they exist on some level, they are often nothing more than a “storefront” on an ecommerce website or a brand sold ONLY through places like Amazon. Google them and you typically won’t find a website or even a physical address for the companies.

This direct-to-consumer, or 3P (third-party), model may be an overall positive in supplying consumers with a wide assortment of products. But in healthcare, it is for me, at least a huge concern.

Search on Amazon for stethoscopes and you will find as many as a dozen or more brands. Four of them exist in the medical space, selling their products through the traditional healthcare channels ALONG with Amazon. This gang of four has been around for decades, perfecting our products, standing behind our generous warranties (some more generous than others), and servicing the consumer. ADC, for example, continues to repair or rebuild products purchased decades ago.

But the rest of the brands exist only on Amazon (or Ebay or Walmart.com). The companies behind them aren’t easily identified. Some are general importers selling any product on Amazon that they can source and sell. Others are Chinese manufacturers that have historically sold their products to importers but can now sell direct to consumer due to advances in low-cost global logistics.

The online model allows these companies to survive -- for a while, anyway -- by spending unsustainable levels of promotional dollars to ensure search visibility.

On the other side of the distribution equation are the merchants selling products on Amazon. Many of these are virtual and have no physical store. They are giant warehouse operations that treat products like commodities. They sell tens of thousands of different products from entirely different industries: toys, cosmetics, clothes and, yes… medical devices. They offer no expertise. Just cheap prices.

Other merchants are traditional retailers in a market segment such as healthcare, but create a new identify solely for use online.

Both types of merchants obscure their identities so that they can market products in ways that often violate the policies of the manufacturers who’s products they sell. For example, many manufacturers prohibit their retailers from selling on Amazon or other marketplaces. Other manufacturers employ IMAP, a policy that specifies the floor price that can be advertised for a product.

The online storefronts can, by obscuring their identify, violate a manufacturer's terms (at least until they’re caught), disrupting traditional supply channels. And while consumers may benefit initially with lower prices, they typically suffer in the end with substandard service, diminished return privileges, and very often counterfeit products.

At ADC, we’ve been on a multiyear mission to clean up our channel. We’ve imposed a variety of new, tougher policies (including IMAP) to protect our brands and the cherished authorized retailers that sell them for us. That has meant hunting down companies that dump product online (often by rescinding return privileges), sell counterfeits, or are simply bad actors. In the end we expect we might sell a few less products, but we do so at prices that are fair, competitive, and allow our channel partners to earn a living while ensuring that our consumers get the products they need, at prices they can afford, with the service to back them up.

We hope you’ll continue to support our authorized resellers. For a list of authorized resellers, go to our Where to Buy page and enter your zip code. You'll get a list of local shops and can click the Online Dealers tab to see our ecommerce partners.