Mike Adams OBE at Picaddily Circus promoting Purple Tuesday
Mike Adams OBE at Picaddily Circus promoting Purple Tuesday

New research suggests that many UK businesses, including high street retailers, are losing millions of pounds of vital revenue each year by ignoring the needs of disabled consumers.

Purple, the disabled organisation championing accessible shopping and the organisation behind Purple Tuesday, conducted a poll with 501 respondents in the UK who consider themselves to be disabled, revealing that more than half of respondents are struggling to make purchases of a product/service due to their disability.

According to the research, disabled young people aged 16-24 fare the worst, with more than three-quarters of them stating that they have found it difficult to buy goods online or in-person due to their disability on more than one occasion.

Four in five disabled customers note that UK business can do more to be more accessible, whilst over half of respondents (56 percent) agree that improving staff understanding about different disabilities would encourage them to spend more.

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With more than 13 million people in the UK being classed as having a form of disability, according to the Department for Work and Pensions, it is estimated disabled people spending, often referred to as the ‘purple pound’, is worth an estimated £249billion a year.

In the study carried out, respondents highlighted that retail was the most accessible business sector to purchase from, followed by banking and hospitality/leisure/restaurants.

Disabled consumers emphasise in the poll that inaccessible and unusable locations, poor customer service and a lack of understanding about disabilities were the main factors preventing them from spending their money with a company.

The research comes as businesses and organisations prepare for 2019’s ‘Purple Tuesday’ on the 12 November, a day which celebrates UK companies that are improving the customer experience for disabled shoppers.

Last year marked the launched of the awareness day, which saw giant retailers such as Argos and Sainsbury take part, as well as some of the UK’s busiest shopping destinations include Bluewater and Birmingham Bullring.

In addition, companies in the mobility sector also took part, including Easy Living Mobility and Jay-Care Stairlift & Mobility.

Easy Living Mobility Purple Tuesday
Easy Living Mobility taking part in Purple Tuesday in November 2018

Mike Adams OBE, Chief Executive of Purple, the disability organisation behind Purple Tuesday, said: “While many UK businesses and organisations are stepping up to the mark and making the changes needed to improve disabled customers’ experiences, far too many are not.

“This is a huge mistake, not least because by turning their backs on disabled shoppers, they are losing out on millions of pounds of revenue every year.

“It should simply not be the case that one in two disabled people struggle to make purchases online or in person. Small changes can make a big difference to the customer experience; we want to help organisations have the confidence to improve their services for disabled people.”

In particular, more than one in five respondents suggested that hiring more disabled people would make them more likely to make a purchase, as well as the need for “wider aisles” or “lighter doors” having a positive effect on their likeliness to spend more.

With disabled consumers forming a fundamental demographic for mobility retailers, prioritising accessibility and comfort in showrooms is essential, amidst growing competition.

According to Purple, the findings support previous research noting that less than 10 percent of organisations have a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers.

The potential of the purple pound is clear says Purple, with disabled people saying they spend on average £163 on retail per month, £117 on banking, £98 on travel, £69 on insurance, £78 on hospitality (such as at restaurants or on leisure activities) and £19 on gym or health activities.

Carole Hughes, from Liverpool, was born with spina bifida and has been using a wheelchair since 2015. She shops regularly at large supermarkets and department stores around the city.

Carole said: “I often have problems getting around stores and supermarkets, either because the aisles are too narrow or there are items blocking the way. It can be a challenge to find staff who are willing to help – sometimes I’m made to feel like a nuisance when I ask for basic assistance.

“There needs to be more consistency with staff training. Other things like making more doors open automatically and locating accessible parking spaces close to store entrances also make a huge difference to wheelchair users.

“I’d urge all organisations to sign up to Purple Tuesday and make sure they are providing a better shopping experience to their disabled customers.”

Organisations that register for Purple Tuesday will benefit from free resources from Purple on topics such as website accessibility and customer service training. In exchange, Purple asks that business make a minimum of one commitment to improving the customer experience for disabled people.

These commitments can range from major transformations to simple, smaller steps, says the Purple, with the aim to improve the experience for disabled customers. Examples include conducting an audit of an organisation’s website to ensure its accessible or staff training to help them communicate effectively with disabled consumers.

Is your business planning to take part in Purple Tuesday this November? If so, THIIS wants to hear from you! Get in touch with Calvin Barnett at calvin@thiis.co.uk to let us know for your opportunity to be featured in THIIS.

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