Why accessibility is becoming increasingly important in retail
Ahead of the UK’s first dedicated accessible shopping day, ‘Purple Tuesday,’ making stores inclusive for disabled shoppers is becoming increasingly important to ensure they are part of the shopping experience.
Taking place on the 13th of November 2018, Purple Tuesday will see retailers around the country introduce new measures to make their stores more accessible for disabled customers.
In February 2017, the Department of Work and Pensions estimated that there are 11 million disabled people in the UK and the spending power of their households – ‘the purple pound’ – is almost £250 billion.
In light of this statistic, retailers are realising the potential of the ‘purple pound’ and are investing more into their stores, both physical and digital, to ensure they are fully inclusive to disabled shoppers.
Purple Tuesday is being co-ordinated by disability organisation Purple and has been endorsed by the government, with support from retailers such as Argos, Sainsbury’s, as well as the owners of some of the UK’s busiest shopping destinations such as Landsec (Bluewater) and Hammerson (Birmingham Bullring).
In addition to promoting accessibility in store, the campaign is also outlining the need for retailers to ensure their e-commerce is accessible as well.
According to the organisation, inaccessible websites and apps accounted for an estimated £11.75 billion in lost revenue in the UK in 2016.
“There’s a vast array of adjustments retailers can make that will have a significant impact, and many that can be implemented quickly,” commented Mike Adams, CEO of Purple.
“Customer service is a perfect example – as part of Purple Tuesday, we’ll be providing a simple training kit to help in-store staff feel confident in assisting disabled shoppers.”
One area of retail which particularly needs to consider accessibility for customers is mobility retail. Due to the type of products mobility retailers offer, a large percentage of their consumers may have additional needs when shopping, including visual, mobility, auditory and cognitive.
One particular retailer that created a more accessible store for its customers during refurbishment is Scotgate Mobility.
Katy Brown, Managing Director of Scotgate Mobility, told AT Today: “I am glad we took our time before doing the refit. Had we done it at the beginning of opening the store, we may have made some poor decisions.
“Instead, learning more about the local market conditions and the way we want to take the business forward was a better way to approach the refit.
“For example, previously there was a black entrance mat, however, I learned that people with dementia can find black carpets quite disorientating – as though they are stepping into a black hole – so we consciously decided to change it.”
Hereford-based retailer Mills Mobility has also invested in making its premises more accessible, removing internal walls to create more floor space, evening out the floor space and installing accessible doors.
Greg Mills, Managing Director of Mills Mobility, said: “We felt that accessibility was the most important feature we could offer in our showroom.
“Previously, we had two separate areas with a standard sized doorway, making manoeuvrability harder for our customers. By creating an open plan showroom, we have enabled customers to have the access to the products and sales desk that they require.”
According to Greg, the reaction to the changes have been positive from the retailer’s customers, as well as helping shoppers better see the store’s range.
“They like how big it now feels, and how easily they can now see the items that we have in the showroom. The clean and modern feel of our showroom gives it a great professional look but we are really so pleased with how accessible it now is!” he added.
As accessibility becomes the expected norm across all areas of society, with growing recognition of schemes such as Purple Tuesday and Changing Places, it is essential that retailers across all sectors ensure their online and offline properties are accessible for disabled people.