WNC Wellness Dialogue: Robert Allison of Banner Therapy Products

Welcome to the first in a series of dialogues focusing on the people and local businesses of WNC and our interwoven relationships with health and wellness. For a peek at the local supply side, I caught up with Robert Allison, marketing manager of Banner Therapy Products — an Asheville-based supply center for healthy living and physical therapy goods.

MXwellness: Hi there, Robert. As part of our WNC Wellness Dialogues, we’ve been asking the question: Where does wellness come from?

Allison: Wellness comes primarily from cooperating with the body’s inherent tendency toward health. We optimize wellness by supporting the body’s own healing capabilities. We are fundamentally three-part beings — body, mind, and spirit, and achieving optimal wellness requires supporting wellness in all three realms. One way you can do this is by using those products which can assist the body in regarding wellness. At Banner Therapy, most of what we do relates to the health of the body, which, broadly speaking, requires proper nutrition, appropriate movement, and adequate rest.

MXwellness: Please tell us a little about Banner Therapy Products.

Allison: Banner Therapy Products is a multi-channel distributor of a diverse line of products to support healthy living. The product solutions we offer include tools for rehabilitation and other physical challenges, health and beauty products, fitness tools and nutritional supplements. We offer these solutions direct to the consumer through our website. We also offer a comprehensive line of products for bodywork professionals, such as massage therapists, physical therapists, and chiropractors.

MXwellness: On your website you note that 80 percent of the U.S. population is within a 12-hour drive of your showroom. What are some of the other advantages of basing your operation in Asheville?

Allison: Asheville has a large community of physical therapists, massage therapists, and other bodywork professionals. This not only offers a home-grown market for our products, but also provides opportunities to interact with these professionals on a daily basis. Their feedback and insights help us keep our finger on the pulse of current trends in these professions.

Asheville also attracts a significant number of individuals who embrace holistic health. This not only provides a ready-made audience for the solutions we offer, but also exposes us to new ideas and trends as they develop.

Additionally, Asheville (and WNC in general) has a large and growing number of retirees. This is a nice fit, given that we offer the most comprehensive line of elder care products in this region.

MXwellness: How do you view the relationship between holistic health solutions and traditional mainstream practices? And what do you anticipate for the future of that relationship?

Allison: In the past hundred years, traditional, or conventional medicine has made some amazing advances in the areas of emergency medicine and diagnostic procedures. But the reality is that mainstream medical model often has relatively little to offer in resolving long-term chronic degenerative conditions or even the minor day-to-day health annoyances we all experience. The current model is skewed by the pervasive influence of the giant pharmaceutical corporations, whose profitability is intractably tied to their ability to keep us dependent on their “solutions.” Given this reality, it is not surprising that many conventional practitioners are often antagonistic to alternative and holistic practices.

Thankfully, this is beginning to change as more and more MDs are embracing alternative approaches. This is most clearly seen in the concept of integrative medicine, which combines the diagnostic and crisis management tools of mainstream medicine with the traditional, holistic wisdom of alternative practices. Many people would recognize this model in the work of Dr. Andrew Weil or Dr. Mehmet Oz, and this paradigm is becoming more widely embraced as many practitioners bump up against the limitations of conventional medicine.

MXwellness: What are some of the more popular products you supply? What kind of trends are you seeing?

Allison: In terms of retail sales, we offer a variety of natural pain relief products, which are hugely popular. We also offer the area’s most comprehensive line of supports, braces, and other pre-habilitation and rehabilitation products. As you are probably aware carpal tunnel syndrome and other joint-issues have become a significant issue for a growing percentage of our population.

Fitness equipment is also a growing category for us—we have a great selection of physio-balls, balance boards, resistance bands—you name. And as I mentioned early, elder care products are also big movers for us.

MXwellness: Where do you see yourselves and the industry in five years?

Allison: We believe that all of the body-work professions will continue to experience solid growth in the next five years and we are focused on expanding on our reputation as a trusted resource and provider in this market.

Additionally, we also plan on continuing to expand our offering of elder care and anti-aging products, to meet the needs of the aging U.S. population.

We are also expanding our offering of nutritional supplements, fitness products, and other tools for healthy living. We believe the most potent form of health-care reform is to change the way people eat and move, and to offer natural solutions to the nation’s health care challenges. More and more people are realizing that conventional medicine and the big pharmaceutical companies offer nothing in the way of real solutions to address our growing health care crisis.

MXwellness: Regarding the recent health care debate and subsequent bill, what sort of impact, if any, do you foresee for your company?

Allison: Honestly, it is somewhat difficult to identify what, if any, direct impact the debate and legislation will have on Banner Therapy Products. Albert Einstein once famously observed that “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Most of the political dialogue around this topic is mired in the failed solutions of the past and we [at Banner] have consciously positioned ourselves outside of what passes for conventional wisdom regarding health and wellness.

Having said that, we have certainly identified trends which will impact us as an organization. At the macro level, this is most readily seen in the growing realization that each of us is fundamentally responsible for our own health and well-being. We believe that we are poised to continue being a valuable and trusted resource for those seeking to make decisions to support optimal wellness.

MXwellness: Any last thoughts?

Allison: Asheville is an amazing community for a company like Banner Therapy Products to call home. Although our web business is international in scope, we love being able to serve the Asheville community through our local showroom. Many of our customer’s call us “Asheville’s Best Kept Secret,” but the secret is out of the bag.

Banner Therapy Products’ website is www.bannertherapy.com. It’s showroom is located at 891 Broadway Street.

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About Wade Inganamort
• Partner / Digital publisher @ Hukilau.us • Heavy reader, screenwriter, and information liaison currently enjoying the small-town life in North Carolina •

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