The UK’s first day dedicated to accessible shopping will take place during the run up to Christmas 2018. ‘Purple Tuesday’ on Tuesday 13 November will see retailers across the country – and online – introduce new measures to make the shopping experience more inclusive for disabled customers.
The initiative is being co-ordinated by the disability organisation Purple and has been endorsed by the government. Leading brands including Argos, Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Marks & Spencer have already pledged their support, as have owners of some of the UK’s busiest shopping destinations such as The Crown Estate, Landsec (Bluewater) and Hammerson (Birmingham Bullring).
Estimates put the collective spending power of disabled people and their families (the ‘Purple Pound’) at £249bn. However, research by the Department for Work and Pensions puts both shopping and eating and drinking out in the top three most difficult experiences for disabled people based on accessibility.
These issues are felt more acutely in the peak Christmas shopping period. A poll of 200 disabled people by Purple back in December found that more than one in two disabled people were concerned about overcrowding. A similar proportion said they have left a store or abandoned a purchase because of a poor customer experience.
Purple Tuesday will also promote accessible e-commerce. The Click-Away Pound survey suggests that retailers are missing out on significant volumes of online sales. In 2016, inaccessible websites and apps accounted for an estimated £11.75 billion in lost revenue in the UK alone.
The organisers are calling on more retailers to join them in signing up to take part on the day and to look at how they can delight their disabled customers – in-store or online – and reap the commercial benefits.
“There’s a vast array of adjustments retailers can make that will have a significant impact, and many that can be implemented quickly,” explains Mike Adams, CEO of Purple. “Customer service is a perfect example – as part of Purple Tuesday we’ll be providing a simple training kit to help in-store staff feel confident in assisting disabled shoppers.”
“Less than 10% of companies have a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers. Fundamentally, Purple Tuesday isn’t about a single day in the year but encouraging lasting change that creates a virtuous circle between businesses and disabled consumers.”
Jo Moran, head of customer service at Marks & Spencer said: “The accessibility of our stores and website is extremely important to us, so we’re delighted to support Purple Tuesday. Taking place in the run up to Christmas it’s a great opportunity for us to refresh our training with colleagues to ensure we’re offering the best possible service for all our customers.”
Tim Fallowfield, company secretary & corporate services director for Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re extremely proud to be supporting Purple Tuesday. As part of our vision to be the most inclusive retailer, we are always looking for ways to improve and adapt to meet our customers’ needs, which was brought to light with Sainsbury’s achieving Disability Confident Leader Status last year. By taking steps towards improving accessible shopping during the busiest shopping period of the year, we hope to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges, while also providing an enhanced shopping experience for our disabled customers.”
The Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, Sarah Newton, said: “Shopping should be a pleasant experience, but for many disabled people it can often be the cause of distress and frustration. By failing to cater to their disabled customers, many businesses are missing out on billions of pounds and denying disabled people the opportunity to enjoy something which many people take for granted.
“I look forward to working alongside Purple and members of my Disability Retail Forum on this hugely important agenda, highlighting examples of best practice in the retail sector and encouraging others to make small changes which can make a massive difference to their customers.”