As a business you probably don’t need me to point out that this is the start of what is likely to be the busiest time of year– especially for retailers.
With the high streets decked out with festive lights and decorations, the run-up to Christmas is traditionally the time of the year people head out to shop for gifts, whether it’s to their local independent shops and boutiques, or to the bigger shopping centres with all the chain stores. And a fifth of those customers are people are living with a disability or health condition.
For many disabled people, shopping can be an anxiety-inducing experience. These issues are felt even more acutely in the peak Christmas shopping period for many people, with shops busier than usual with extra decorations and loud music.
Last December, a poll by disability organisation Purple found that more than one in two disabled people were concerned about overcrowding. A similar proportion said they had left a store or abandoned a purchase because of a poor customer experience.
The spending power of disabled people and their families is currently estimated at £249 billion. Clearly, it’s not just disabled people who miss out if they leave a shop or decide not to give a retailer their custom – businesses do too.
That’s why I’m joining forces with Purple for the UK’s first ever accessible shopping day on Tuesday 13 November. The day will see retailers – in store and online – introducing new measures to make shopping a more inclusive experience, sending a powerful message that they care about all their customers and that their business matters to them.
It’s often the small changes that make a massive difference to people’s experiences, and many businesses are already doing great work in this area. Providing staff with disability awareness training, becoming Disability Confident and having clear walkways are all things that can be done to improve customers’ interaction with your business, and help retain their loyalty to your brand. Purple have already developed a customer service guide, which provides practical advice on what businesses can do.
More than 100 retailers are already involved with Purple Tuesday, including Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and Argos.
I urge you to get involved in Purple Tuesday and be ahead of the curve in driving forward change. This isn’t about one awareness day, it’s about encouraging lasting change and ensuring that no-one misses out on everything our retail sector has to offer.