Increasingly, retailers across multiple sectors are realising the potential of the ‘purple pound’ and are investing more into their stores, both physical and digital, to ensure they are fully accessible to disabled shoppers. For retailers in the mobility sector however, accessibility is a must.

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.

This is a figure that has not gone unnoticed by retailers and on the 13th November 2018, the UK’s first day dedicated to accessible shopping will take place during the run up to Christmas 2018.

Named ‘Purple Tuesday’, the event will see retailers across the country – and online – introduce new measures to make the shopping experience more inclusive for disabled customers.

The initiative is being co-ordinated by the 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 highlighting 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.”

For retailers and companies operating in the world of independent living and mobility, this need for accessibility is all the more significant.

Due to the very nature of the products mobility retailers offer, a large percentage of their consumers may have additional needs when shopping, including visual, mobility, auditory and cognitive.

Recently, mobility retailers have been investing in accessibility in their bricks and mortar stores, ensuring customers are able to enjoy a pleasant shopping experience.

Having finished her store refurbishment in early 2018, Katy Brown, Managing Director of Scotgate Mobility, told THIIS that she researched the needs before making undertaking the project.

“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,” she explained.

“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 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 the Mills Mobility, commented: “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 mobility retailers ensure their online and offline properties keep pace with consumers’ growing expectations.

For retailers interested in signing up to take part in Purple Tuesday, visit www.purpletuesday.org.uk

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