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UK retailers promise to improve shopping for disabled consumers

Published
today Nov 12, 2019
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More than 2,500 retail businesses and organisations have pledged to improve their customer experience for disabled consumers.


Purple Tuesday


Household names including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Westfield, The Body Shop, Regatta and Intu will make long-term changes to make online and in-store shopping easier for disabled people.

The announcement was made by Purple, a disability charity, on Purple Tuesday.

According to new research, poor customer service and a lack of staff understanding are among the key barriers preventing disabled consumers from purchasing goods. 56% of disabled people are more likely to spend money with organisations if they educate staff about different disabilities, and 41% would like to see retailers improve the overall customer experience for disabled people.

Additionally, 41% would prioritise store/shop/location accessibility and 16% would like to see better website accessibility for people with disabilities.

The findings reveal there is still a long way to go to effectively target disabled consumers and their families, whose spending power is estimated to be £249 billion every year.

Sainsbury’s has pledged to trial a weekly Sunflower Hour in 30 stores, creating a calmer environment by reducing background noise and giving shoppers to option to pick up a sunflower lanyard to discreetly indicate they may need additional support.

Marks & Spencer has also introduced sunflower lanyards across the entire UK store estate, and launched a colleague campaign to train staff to better assist those with disabilities.

“Meeting the needs of disabled customers makes commercial sense for organisations of all sizes, from all sectors, but our message to organisations is: you don’t have to spend big budgets to make lasting change… Introducing staff training and improving website accessibility are low cost changes, but the difference to a company’s bottom line – as well as to a disabled consumer’s personal experience – can be significant,” said Mike Adams, chief executive of Purple.

Zoe Mountford, lead sustainability manager at Marks & Spencer added: “We’re committed to making M&S the UK’s most accessible retailer, whether customers are shopping online or in-store. Earlier this year we became the first retailer to introduce sunflower lanyards for customers with hidden disabilities into all of our stores, this came one year after we launched daywear for children with disabilities and two years after we published AccessAble Guides.”

The number of businesses supporting Purple Tuesday increased from 750 in 2018 to 2,500 this year. Purple estimates that the spending power of disabled consumers and their families increases by an average of 14% per annum.

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