Sainsbury’s, M&S and Blakemore Retail are joining hundreds of other retailers today (12 November) to improve the customer experience for disabled people by supporting Purple Tuesday.
Multiple shopping centres, including Bluewater and Intu, are also participating. Westfield is taking Purple Tuesday international with shopping centres in Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland making commitments for better customer service for disabled people.
New research published for Purple Tuesday reveals that poor customer service and a lack of staff understanding are among the key barriers preventing disabled consumers from purchasing goods and services.
The research has prompted calls for businesses and organisations to rethink how they target disabled consumers and their families, whose spending power – the so-called Purple Pound – is estimated to be £249 billion every year.
More than 2,000 businesses, organisations and stores from a range of sectors have made more than 3,500 pledges to make long-term changes as part of Purple Tuesday on 12 November. This includes:
- Sainsbury’s and Argos, who have announced a new trial of a weekly ‘Sunflower Hour’ in 30 stores, which involves creating a calmer environment by reducing background noise and sensory overload that launches on Purple Tuesday. The trial gives customers the option to pick up a sunflower lanyard which has been purposely designed to act as a discreet sign for store colleagues to recognise if they may need to provide a customer with additional support. Sainsbury’s was the first retailer to trial this initiative in 2018.
- Microsoft Store, which has committed to educating not only the community but retail businesses on how to create accessible retail experiences, work environments and improving the lives of customers and employees living with disabilities.
- M&S, which is committed to being the U.K.’s most accessible retailer and has introduced a number of improvements to its stores and website over the past few years – including becoming the first retailer to introduce Sunflower Lanyards into all stores for those with hidden disabilities Earlier this month M&S ran a colleague campaign “Making Every Day Accessible” introducing a number of resources for colleagues including a top tips for being disability confident video, a guide on how to run sensory friendly shopping hours and a new ‘hard of hearing’ uniform.
- Blakemore Retail, which is providing training for 4300 staff and making training available to their 700 independent SPAR Retailers
75% of disabled people have had to leave a store or website, unable to go through with their purchase because of their disability, according to research cited by Purple Tuesday itself. Research shows that most complaints from disabled people relate to experiences within the business/organisation premises, with disabled people more likely to spend money with organisations if they improve2:
- staff understanding about different disabilities (56%)
- the overall customer experience for disabled people (41%)
- store/shop/location accessibility (41%)
- website accessibility (16%)
More than 1 in 3 disabled people (34%) said poor customer service prevented them from making a purchase, while 33% blamed a lack of understanding from staff about their needs. Some disabled respondents said improvements should include ‘being treated the same as anyone else’ and having ‘knowledgeable staff’.
The research has led Purple Tuesday to call on organisations to focus on straightforward, low-cost solutions to improve the customer experience for disabled people – changes that go beyond the front door. Of the 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, 80% have a hidden impairment, meaning improvements and enhancements are needed to improve access for disabled people, beyond having a ramp installed to help enter a site.
Mike Adams OBE, Chief Executive of Purple, said: “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. That’s why we’re urging organisations to focus on improvements that go ‘beyond the front door’. 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.
“Purple Tuesday has more than doubled in size this year, with more than 2000 organisations from a variety of sectors making commitments to improve the customer experience for disabled people. These are long-term changes that will have a lasting impact for millions of customers – and improve the commercial opportunities for the organisations involved.”
The purple pound is worth £249 billion and is rising by an average of 14% per annum, yet it is estimated that less than 10% of businesses have a targeted plan to access this disability market. Purple Tuesday’s research shows that more than 80% of disabled people say businesses could do more to be accessible and encourage them to spend money.
Organisations can contact Purple for advice on how they can improve their approach to disabled consumers. Example changes include:
- Conducting an online audit of your website to improve accessibility
- Training staff to know and understand how to communicate effectively with disabled customers
- Getting front line staff to learn basic British Sign Langue skills to communicate with those customers from the deaf community
- Conducting an on-site audit to ensure the physical space is suitable for every customer to get around the area easily
- Improving wayfair signage around the facility
- Introducing quiet hours on a regular basis to help people who struggle with music, tannoys and noise.
For more information on Purple Tuesday, please visit www.PurpleTuesday.org.uk.