December 2015

Putting their best foot forward: OHI doubles down on innovation and guarantees always-in-stock footwear

apex-logoBy Suzanne Wright

Hauppauge, NY-based OHI (Orthotic Holdings, Inc.) acquired Apex Foot Health Industries in March 2015. President and Chief Operating Officer Jason Kraus said Apex, which is headquartered in Teaneck, NJ, had long been recognized for offering the most innovative and highest-quality footwear to healthcare professionals. However, it had been a while since the product line aesthetics had been refreshed.

That’s quickly changed under OHI’s ownership, which has provided both the financial wherewithal and strategic vision to turn things around.

“Apex has always had a reputation as an excellent diabetic shoe company,” said Kraus. “And it’s a good fit for us because the majority of our clients provide care for this very challenging, at-risk patient population. But our vision is bigger. We wanted Apex to become a medical and wellness shoe company. The fit with the other OHI brands was perfect, as everything we fabricate as a company ends up in a shoe, and the therapeutic outcomes are substantially impacted by the quality and fit of patients’ shoes.”

Being able to offer high-performance, fashionable footwear dovetails nicely with OHI’s goal of becoming the leading provider of lower extremity products and services. By assembling all the top brands and category leaders under the OHI umbrella, the company can offer the most comprehensive set of solutions in the industry.

Within just nine months of the acquisition, R&D exploded at Apex, said Kraus. Now, many new design characteristics will make Apex footwear an outstanding fit for patients with medical conditions besides diabetes, such as balance issues, plantar fasciitis, knee osteoarthritis, and more.

Apex’s management team also recognizes the enormous market potential for customers who are proactive about protecting their feet but also want to remain active, and it is actively exploring its options to address those customers’ needs.

“Wellness starts from the feet up,” said Kraus. “Our shoes are designed to combine excellent construction, proper support, and good looks. We anticipate our buyers will be not only customers who have physical challenges, but anyone who wants to safeguard their overall wellness.”

Apex is launching seven new styles during early 2016. The attractive new styles include men’s and women’s athletic shoes, hiking boots, and boat shoes—footwear solutions that bridge a market gap.

Sometime during 2016, OHI will also introduce a shoe that will help mitigate the risks of balance deficits.

“There is a growing part of the population that is at risk for falls,” said Kraus. “Footwear can play a negative or positive role. Apex footwear can help mitigate fall risks by addressing balance issues.”

As the only comprehensive orthopedic solution for lower extremity ailments, OHI is investing heavily in research and development, he said. This philosophy extends to Apex, its newest addition. Kraus said markets have been focused on cost cutting rather than innovation over the past years. And, though it may seem counterintuitive in this environment, he said this kind of strategic investment is good for the future of OHI and its thousands of customers.

“We are doing this for two reasons,” he said. “First, because innovation is in our DNA. And, second, because not too far down the road, the healthcare delivery system will migrate away from the current feefor-service model to a fee-for-value model. Providers will be rewarded for helping prevent or mitigate debilitating or chronic conditions.” The investments being made today will position the OHI product portfolio and its customer base in an advantaged position, he said.

OHI’s distributors are enthusiastic about this shift.

“We’ve been a distributor for the Apex shoe line since 1998,” said Marvin Bearak, president of Justin Blair & Company. “I have seen many changes in this industry in the past forty years, but this new Apex line is something unique.”

Apex customers will enjoy another competitive market advantage in 2016: inventory that ensures that no fewer than 18 top-selling styles are always in stock.

The “Never Out” program allows physicians to prescribe shoes with confidence, eliminating back orders and ensuring patients’ favorite styles are readily available.

This move comes at no small cost to OHI, but it underscores the company’s commitment to service. And, by bundling Apex shoes with an ankle foot orthosis (AFO) from sister OHI brand Arizona AFO, the company eliminates one of the most significant pain points in dispensing braces: fitting them into AFO-appropriate shoes. This innovative program is called AFO Essentials.

“Never before has a patient been able to walk out the door with this level of compliance,” said Kraus. “Both doctors and patients are thrilled.”

In 2016, OHI is also enhancing its service ethic by empowering and incentivizing Apex’s customer-facing teams to solve problems without needing a corporate OK.

“We are always looking for ways to exceed client expectations,” said Kraus. “Our company is already recognized as the industry leader from a therapeutic and technology perspective. It’s only logical that we created a service innovation as an adjunct.”

There was pride evident in his voice as he discussed the next 12 months. “Under OHI leadership, Apex is making great strides,” Kraus said. “If we have the best products and pair them with singular, industry-leading service, well, then it’s game over.”

Suzanne Wright is an Arizona-based freelance writer.

Article sponsored by Apex.

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