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Retailers: embracing ‘inclusive shopping’ makes good business sense

13 November 2018 was Purple Tuesday – the UK’s first accessible shopping day aimed at boosting retailers’ awareness of the importance (and needs) of disabled consumers.

A fifth of the UK population has some form of disability or impairment. Their collective spending power – dubbed the Purple Pound – is estimated to be worth £249 billion to the UK economy. However, only 10% of businesses currently have a targeted strategy to access this market.

In a recent survey  carried out by Purple over half of the disabled customers they questioned said that they had abandoned a purchase due to a poor-quality shopping experience. And that’s just the customers who had ventured out to the shops: many do not. There are still real (and perceived) barriers that make it harder for disabled people to access and enjoy the services most of us take for granted.

Of course, under the Equality Act 2010 service providers have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ – that is to remove barriers so that disabled people receive the same service as someone who is not disabled. Following best practice guidance is the primary means of addressing duties from a building fabric perspective, although these are merely minimum standards. There is so much more that retailers can do.

So, what sort of changes need to be made – and how much will it cost? This very much depends on both your organisation’s specific activities and resources. It is important to remember, however, that it’s not just about making physical alterations. Other types of initiatives – such as providing disability-focused customer service training, policing disabled parking, introducing ‘quiet hours’ for those with sensory or cognitive impairments and de-cluttering shopping aisles – can make a real impact and needn’t be costly. Likewise, improvements to access will not only benefit disabled customers, but all customers (such as the elderly or parents with pushchairs).

Retailers who fail to embrace ‘inclusive shopping’ are missing out on a huge financial opportunity. Unquestionably, making changes and adjustments to improve the disabled customer experience makes strong business sense for customer-facing businesses. In addition, landlords with control over common parts in shopping centres also need to step up to the mark, as more accessible retail spaces lead to greater profits – and rents.

At Malcolm Hollis promoting Inclusive Environments is an area we wholeheartedly advocate. Over the years we have been delighted to have worked on many high-profile projects.

Carrying out Access Audits is just one of the specialist Access Consultancy services we provide. We also undertake design appraisals, provide best practice design guidance and Part M advice for building control applications. Drafting access strategy/statement documents in the design stages is also a key part of the project process.

To find out more about what the Access Consultancy service offers please contact service lead Shaun Miller, an NRAC registered Access Consultant.