You can have all the fancy merchandising in the world, and the most desirable products at unbelievably attractive prices: but if you haven’t made your retail establishment people-ready, and that means people of all different ages and abilities, you are never going to maximise on your profit-making potential. The secret to a thriving business is ensuring that you have carefully considered EVERYONE.
Making sure your business is accessible to people with a disability is probably the most important thing you’ll do. Aside from the law requiring things to be in place, you’re missing out on the spending power of the “Purple Pound” – this term refers to the £274 billion per year spending power of disabled households in Britain.
Research shows 75% of disabled people and their families have walked out of a UK business because of poor access and the related customer service. This means companies are losing around £2 billion a month by failing to meet the needs of everyone.
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Many of Britain’s 14.1 million disabled people feel their needs are being ignored by businesses. Almost one in five working adults have some form of disability – and they say many companies simply don’t cater for them. The main problem is inaccessible buildings.
Research has shown how different sectors lose money every month by being inaccessible. It is estimated High Street shops lose £267 million; restaurants, clubs and pubs lose £163 million; supermarkets, £501 million; banks and building societies, £935 million; and transport providers, £42 million.
Customers with pushchairs
It isn’t just disabled customers who struggle; people with young children and pushchairs, and the elderly face the same problems.
There are around 3.7 million children aged four and under in the UK, including 701,900 babies under 12 months old. Failing to provide easy access to supermarkets, retail stores and other business premises can cost the companies a lot of money.
Considering the average spend in the supermarket for a parent with a child is £64 a week, retailers in this sector alone could be losing £12.3 billion a year by failing to provide adequate access.
Almost one-fifth of the UK population (19%) is aged 65 or above, equating to around 12.3 million potential customers. Economists estimate retirees will be responsible for spending 63p in every pound in the UK by 2040 – up from 54p in 2018.
The physical act of opening a heavy door can cause a problem for older, frail people. For customers with arthritic conditions, or those with weak hands and wrists in general; gripping a sturdy door handle, or pushing a heavy door open, can sometimes be impossible.
Issues such as a lack of wheelchair access, inaccessible toilets and a lack of consideration for partially sighted people means businesses are missing out on trade from a large section of the community.
How can businesses become accessible?
Making a good first impression is an important step, so when people approach your business, wheelchair ramps and automatic doors will enable customers with mobility aids and parents with pushchairs to enter easily.
Keep the store’s isles clear of clutter. This should be the case, regardless of a customer’s abilities, to prevent slipping and tripping accidents. Customers are more likely to enjoy their shopping experience when they can move around unhampered by obstacles.
Have signs printed in a clear type, such as 72-point, sans-serif font, which is easy to read for people with impaired vision. Have Braille on signs, menus and business cards too.
Accommodate customers with hearing difficulties by installing a hearing loop and displaying the “T” sign to show it is present. People with hearing aids can use the loop to help them pick up speech more clearly.
Have an accessible public toilet, with a door at least 85 cm wide; “grab bars” at the back and side of the toilet; an 80cm space at the side of the toilet; and a turning radius of at least 1.2 metres.
Offer point-of-sale flexibility, including portable debit machines, or a card machine on an extendable cord, so paying is easier.
Arrange for your staff to complete sensitivity training, considering customer service is a major factor behind disabled people leaving a store without making a purchase. Educating everyone is the best way to break down barriers, increase understanding and change attitudes.
Staff should be trained on assisting customers who have mobility devices. They should also be educated on the law relating to guide dogs and service dogs, and how to interact with someone and their animal.
Automatic Access’s automatic doors, including sliding doors and swing doors, can help make a business more accessible for all. They enable disabled, elderly or frail customers and parents with young children in pushchairs to enter any business premises without a hitch. This increases your business’s ability to attract customers and can therefore improve profitability.