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Purple Tuesday: A step towards accessible retail

While many of us navigate the high street and wider public spaces with ease, these everyday experiences can prove both stressful and difficult to the 1 in 5 adults across the UK with a form of disability.

With the spending power of disabled people and their families estimated at £249 billion, there’s an untapped potential in this market, as well as a moral imperative to improve customer service.

Disability organisation Purple is behind ‘Purple Tuesday’, the UK’s first accessible shopping day. Government-backed, it’s designed to highlight the benefits of designing for this consumer, promoting improvements across the retail sector to ensure inclusivity and accessibility. High-profile retailers have been quick to support the initiative, from Marks & Spencer and Asda, through to shopping centre owners such as Hammerson, who have conducted some research into consumer attitudes around accessible venues.

Unsurprisingly, the research reveals resounding support. 95% of the British public agree that shopping centres should cater for all shoppers and provide an accessible environment. Beyond physical accessibility, shopping centres play a crucial role within local communities for carers, with 67% of carers say that shopping helps them to feel part of the community (versus a national average of 55%), and three quarters say that interactions with other people when shopping are good for their mental health (compared to a 71% national average).

“It is vital that our retail destinations make the shopping and leisure experience as welcoming as possible for all our customers” says Mark Bourgeois, Managing Director UK & Ireland for Hammerson. “We know from research by the Department for Work and Pensions that shopping, eating and drinking out, is one of the top three most difficult experiences for disabled people based on accessibility. This shouldn’t be the case and we hope the initiatives we’re trialling demonstrate that much more can be done on Purple Tuesday and beyond”.

These initiatives have kicked off today across Hammerson shopping centres, with the cinema at Dublin’s Dundrum Town Centre showing an autism friendly screening, and a ‘quiet hour’ across most destinations, with in-store music turned off to provide a calmer retail experience for those with sensory disabilities.

Here at WGSN, we’ve been tracking the rise and importance of inclusive design within our Insight team.

“Creating a welcoming and safe in-store environment for all individuals, not just those with additional needs, should be top of the agenda for retailers in 2018 and beyond” says WGSN’s Retail Editor Laura Saunter, “inclusive retail design and store strategies not only helps businesses to act as a force for good, but also creates a more friendly and accessible retail landscape for all”.

Saunter looks to food retailer Sainsbury’s as agenda-setting.

“Sainsbury’s is trialling a Relaxed Lane at its store in Prestwick, Scotland. The two-hour Slow Shopping concept runs every Tuesday afternoon for customers who need more time making their purchases, such as those with dementia or physical disabilities” says Saunter. “Those who want to use the service are greeted at the store entrance, and chairs provide rest stops at the end of aisles. Sunflower lanyards at store entrances are also available, to discreetly help staff recognise who may want assistance. This is a move that can help tackle misconceptions about invisible disabilities”.

With inclusive design in mind, retailers will not only satisfy disabled consumers, but can improve store experience for all. Purple Tuesday marks a shift into pushing this message across all sectors of retail.

For more, read WGSN Insight’s report, Sensory-Friendly Design: Store Strategies.

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.

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