In Southern California, the climate and temperate weather provide a consistent backdrop -- perfect for the health conscientious and sports-minded to do their thing. Pair this with an outdoor terrain that provides an enormous range of possibilities in (arguably) the most fitness-aware state in the Union. Finally, top it off with a generous helping of some of the most famous people in the world, and what do you get? Los Angeles -- a one-of-a-kind market, perfect for a one-of-a-kind company.
This is part of the springboard that Bauerfeind used as it was about to take a giant leap into unchartered territory with a new concept retail store located in Santa Monica.
According to David Rosen, Global Head of Consumer Brands at Bauerfeind, the location was chosen after much consideration. "We did a lot of preliminary research. It was clear very early on that the United States was one of the most important markets. People there are used to finding solutions themselves, whereas in countries with a strong national health service, people tend just to accept pain or injuries. We also realized that sports were one of the key issues, because sports people -- when they become injured -- are desperate to find ways to recover quickly and efficiently. For them, sport is their life. I am not just talking about professional athletes, but even everyday athletes. And in Los Angeles, we have a large number of people addicted to sports."
Bauerfeind is already a well-known entity abroad -- it is practically a household name in parts of Europe, with its compression stockings and orthopedic braces. But here in the U.S., it has traditionally focused on orthopedic clinics, so it has had a lot to do in order to gain the attention of the masses.
Capitalizing on the company's mission of "motion is life," the manufacturer saw in its future an opportunity to marry the athletic end user with high-tech products and services in a unique setting that could allow for both proper assessment and a customized fit.
In March 2011, Bauerfeind's vision became a reality when it opened its one-of-a-kind retail store in the heart of downtown Santa Monica. The storefront -- situated between the famous 3rd Street Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier -- will become the flagship as Bauerfeind fine-tunes and expands this Performance Center concept across highly targeted US locations over the next several years.
According to Scott Borjeson, Director of Sales and Marketing, "The project was initiated three years ago and was driven by a significant research effort. The final location was pinned down late last year and actual construction started in January this year. The aim was to open up the center in time for the L.A. Marathon in late March."
The New Center of Excellence
To better understand the many unique services and resources the Performance Center provides, I was invited to come see the facility and learn more. While the Santa Monica concept store is a bit of a departure from the traditional sales methods of the company, it is loosely based on both the Bauerfeind center of excellence and Quality Partner Programs -- two successful concepts the company created back in 2007 in Germany and has utilized throughout Europe.
In each of these programs, Bauerfeind partners with select retailers of medical products to provide a shop-in-shop opportunity. The Bauerfeind footprint allows for Bodytronic measurement systems and staff trained by Bauerfeind, as well as products from each of its product divisions (orthopedic supports, medical compression stockings, insoles and shoes.)
The U.S. version takes these concepts several steps further, and a multi-dimensional approach to sports injury is one fundamental component.
"The problem with sports injuries is that they are often not caused just by one thing," says Rosen. "For example, tennis elbow: It could be your technique, your racket, the way you stand, the fact that you have a muscle injury and so on. To solve the problem, it isn't just about having surgery or taking analgesics. You need to deal with all of the issues if you want to solve the problem permanently."
Andrew Pritikin, DPT and Clinical Director for the Santa Monica Performance Center, gave me a personalized tour of the 3,600 sq. ft. retail footprint, which houses an impressive display of the facility?s multidimensional products and services, including sports-specific clinical and educational zones, orthopedic evaluations, orthopedic and sports injury education, custom-fitted orthotic products, physical therapy services, sports biomechanics analysis, cardiovascular fitness evaluations, custom sports equipment and a specialist partner referral program.
"We are going to look not only at the joint that is the problem, but also spend the effort to find the source of the problem in other areas," says Pritikin. "We are going to educate the client so they understand what is happening to their body and, more importantly, why it is happening to their body."
Swing and Stride
Rosen points out, "In our Performance Center, people will have a holistic evaluation. Using technology and consumer education are very important aspects."
Utilizing Bauerfeind's expertise in performance assessment technology, such as the Bodytronic 100/130 (formerly MediLogic) and Image 3D measurement systems, on-site clinicians can ensure the highest quality when it comes to measuring foot pressure and compression stockings.
"With Bauerfeind Bodytronic we will provide a wide range of measurement technologies. And we will also use sophisticated motion analysis. Normally, motion analysis is applied to athletes to find out how to improve their technique, but we put a different twist on it," says Rosen.
"Coming back to tennis elbow: We would film people at very high speed, frame their body over the correct way and see where the problem is. Are they hitting the ball a fraction of a second too late? Or is their back arched in a wrong way? And so on. We will have a series of packages aimed at different types? of people and different types of sports from which people can choose. And of course we will be there for people with ordinary injuries as well."
But the Services Don't Stop There.
By partnering with well-known sports equipment brands, such as Wilson and Callaway, Bauerfeind takes the analysis concept several steps further with customizable products such as tennis rackets, which can be custom-strung on-site to precise tensions, and tennis or golf shoes that can be customized with orthotic inserts, ground on-site while you wait ? all based on your biomechanical assessments.
Pritikin explains, "The policy is not to store lots of brands where people get confused by the overloaded choice that is already available. What we aim to achieve is to understand our product ranges in depth, the philosophy behind them, why the products have been developed and how exactly they benefit the injured athlete. In that way it becomes part of the Bauerfeind family by sharing the same approach as that of our Bauerfeind products."
The concept of the Center also allows for the training of specific core muscles and strengthening of the parts of the body that generate the swing or stride. Experienced physical therapists work onsite to prepare a program that addresses those special needs brought to light by the analyses. But don't worry -- if your personal coach doesn't want anyone messing with his efforts to streamline you into a high-performance athlete, you can take the analysis back to him and he can utilize the data to better understand your special needs in a more controlled atmosphere.
One might assume that all of these special services could come at a high price, but the equipment brands featured in the Center range from the pleasantly affordable to top of the line, and the consultation packages are really rather reasonable. The idea isn't to charge an arm and a leg for the equipment, analyses and services; it is to provide a solution to biomechanical issues associated with the wrong racket or racket tension, as well as to correct grip, alignment and swing mechanics to better optimize the force behind the racket and the swing -- all under one roof.
Drawing a considerable amount of attention from the numerous local professional and college athletic communities, Pritikin explains that the Center can accommodate entire athletic teams for evaluation and measurement for custom-fitted support and orthotic products, as well as biomechanical analysis or sports motion analysis for their specific sport.
"Since we live in an area with many high-profile individuals who want to protect their privacy, (i.e., the Hollywood elite and professional athletes), we have designed the clinic for maximum privacy. We have a secluded driveway, elevator and private entrance for those desiring this accommodation. We cut off the clinic from any intrusions for optimal privacy. We also have the option of closing the front door of the center if they care to shop as well," says Pritikin.
The Performance Center will also be building a base of local practitioners with which they can collaborate efforts for local patients. "We will be working with a large number of physicians in the area," shares Pritikin. "In turn, if customers enter the Center and they require medical diagnosis after our evaluation or we feel they require additional medical attention, then we will refer these people to medical professionals."
The Future of Compression
While Bauerfeind is investing a considerable amount of resources toward the concept store, Borjeson is quick to point out that there are several new products coming out this winter that will underpin Bauerfeind's emphasis on the medical side of compression care as well.
"Promoting an active lifestyle through therapeutic solutions that people will want to wear and use daily are core competencies of Bauerfeind.
This know-how will be available to the public at the Performance Center. However, if we look at compression therapy, there are also a number of innovations in the pipeline which will benefit physicians treating venous disorders as well as therapists managing chronic edema."
What are the expectations for the Performance Center? Rosen points out, "Our Center is going to be a very uplifting and inspiring place -- a visual experience as well as an educational and medical one. I would like to think seriously that within 12 months 30 percent of everyone in Los Angeles who is even vaguely involved in sports will have heard about the store and know what we do. For their individual problems people need individual treatment and individual solutions. Bauerfeind is very well set up for that."
Drop By and Learn More
During the American College of Phlebology meeting to be held in Los Angeles this November, the folks at Bauerfeind would like to invite any attendees who wish to come see the facility to do so. The location is easily accessible with ample parking directly across the street in Parking Structure 8, and store hours are Monday - Saturday from 10 to 7, and Sunday 12 to 6. So if you're curious about how Bauerfeind is staking its claim on sports technology and assessment, by all means, drop on by. You'll be pleasantly surprised.