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Insight:disabled consumers tell retailers to 'help me spend my money'

A new campaign is calling for more retail businesses to offer awareness training to in-store staff to help them improve the service they offer to disabled shoppers.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Insight:disabled consumers tell retailers to 'help me spend my money'

A new campaign is calling for more retail businesses to offer awareness training to in-store staff to help them improve the service they offer to disabled shoppers.

Purple, a social enterprise that works with both disabled people and the business community to promote opportunities around disability, has launched the ‘Help Me Spend My Money’ campaign to encourage more retail and hospitality businesses to ensure they are providing the same level of service to all their customers.

It is also calling on them to join the government’s Disability Confident scheme which promotes the employment of disabled workers.

Backed by shopping centre owner Intu, the campaign has been launched at Intu Lakeside in Thurrock. Intu has been introducing a range of measures at its popular shopping and leisure destinations across the UK over the last two years such as specialist training for staff to support those with autism and blindness.

Research conducted by Purple shows that over 80% of disabled consumers choose to shop in places that actively support disabled people. It argues that brands that “delight” disabled consumers can win loyal customers and realise the potential of the ‘Purple Pound’ which the government estimates is worth annually £249 billion to the economy.

Purple chief executive Mile Adams said: “As a disabled customer, I have experienced many of the problems that prevent people like myself from spending more time, and therefore more money, in shops and restaurants. Plus, four in five disabled people have a hidden impairment, so it isn’t always obvious that they might need additional assistance.

“Poor service can take many forms, but one of the most common is a failure to engage or acknowledge disabled customers. In the majority of instances this doesn’t happen on purpose, it’s because staff are concerned about causing (unintentional) offence. Something as simple as saying ‘hello, can I help?’ can make a big difference. So what we’re saying is that investing in disability confidence isn’t just about social responsibility, there’s also a big commercial opportunity to be had if you get it right.”

According to research from the Department of Work and Pensions, shopping, eating and drinking out rank in the top three most difficult experiences for disabled people based on accessibility. In addition , a study by the Extra Costs Commission found that 75% of disabled people and their families have left a shop because of poor customer service, and that UK businesses risk missing out on as much as £420 million a week through lost sales as a result.

Alexander Nicoll, corporate responsibility director at Intu, said: “One of the things Intu is known for is putting a smile on the faces of our customers and this applies to everyone who visits our centres across the UK – no one should feel excluded.”

As well as launch partner Intu, Help Me Spend My Money has also received the support of M&S, and the Institute of Directors. They are calling on more businesses to join them in signing up to a ‘charter for change’ that commits them to making Disability Awareness training available to in-store staff, having a website that meets independent accessibility guidance, and providing key customer information in large print, braille and easy read formats. It also asks that retailers take steps to promote their disability confident status and sign up to the government’s Disability Confident scheme.

Commenting on the campaign, Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, said: “Retailers must make their services accessible to everyone. It’s not only the responsible thing to do, it makes good business sense too. I lend my full support to Purple in their efforts to empower disabled people, both as employees and consumers.”

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