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Purple Tuesday

UK retailers back Purple Tuesday to help disabled customers

Sainsbury’s, M&S and Blakemore Retail are among hundreds of retailers who have agreed to improve the customer experience for disabled people by supporting Purple Tuesday (today, November 12th). 

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

PURPLE TUESDAY: High Street businesses ‘losing millions’ by shunning disabled consumers

UK businesses – including High Street brands – are losing millions of pounds of revenue every year by turning their backs on disabled consumers.

That’s according to a poll of people who consider themselves to be disabled, conducted by Purple, the disability organisation behind Purple Tuesday.

The survey found that more than half of respondents are struggling to make purchases of a product/service due to their disability. Disabled young people (aged 16-24) fare the worst – more than three-quarters of them say 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 say businesses could do more to be accessible and more than half (56%) agreed that improving staff understanding about different disabilities would encourage them to spend their disposable income, estimated to be £249 billion a year.

Respondents state that retail is the most accessible business to purchase from, followed by banking and hospitality/leisure/restaurants.

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

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.”

Disabled consumers told pollsters that inaccessible and unusable locations, poor customer service and a lack of understanding about disabilities were the main reasons they struggled to spend their money. 

Over 1 in 5 said that hiring more disabled people would make them more likely to make a purchase and some stated that “wider aisles” or “lighter doors” would have the same effect. The findings support previous research, which shows that less than 10% of organisations have a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers.

The potential of the purple pound is clear – disabled people say 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. 

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 improve the customer experience for disabled people. 

For more information on Purple Tuesday, please visit www.purpletuesday.org.uk.

Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay