Disabled customers: untapped spending power.

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Last modified on 03/07/2018

Retail spaces are all about people. They provide spaces for people to eat, meet, drink and socialise. 

We all work hard to attract our customers and keep them coming back. Yet there may be a customer that you haven’t thought about: your disabled customer.

When 19% of the UK population have a disability, there is a huge opportunity to increase your customer base and loyalty.

The issue is that these customers are not always visible. While 43% of British people say they do not know someone with a disability, the fact that nearly a fifth of the population do, shows they aren’t visible. In fact, 4 out of 5 disabilities are ‘hidden’, meaning that they suffer from a condition that doesn’t have obvious physical symptoms. These include conditions such as Autism, Dementia, and Crohn’s.

Perhaps because hidden elements of disabilities aren’t as widely known, it can be difficult to know how we can support disabled customers beyond the usual or more obvious measures, such as wheelchair access or braille.

While the Equality Act came into force in 2010 and superseded the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), recent government reports show that businesses are still not waking up to the potential £250bn spending power of disabled groups that is not being tapped in the UK at the moment.

At intu, we are at the beginning of our journey to make sure that not only are accessible for all our customers but that we are inclusive too. We have had highly positive responses to our programme to become autism friendly and we are beginning to trial a number of innovative measures for our disabled customers, such as providing a blind personal shopping service at intu Braehead.

I was appointed as a champion for disability in retail earlier this year to help the rest of our industry realise this opportunity.

Revo has set up a working group to look at how we can support you to make retail accessible and inclusive.

We are conducting a survey as a starting point to understand the current situation which will be distributed soon, and then we are looking at producing a toolkit with best practice guidance.

I know there is already a huge amount of good work and partnerships happening all over the country, but there are some really simple steps that we can all take that create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone:

  1. Disability awareness training for your staff. Disability is diverse and wide-ranging, no one expects your staff to be experts in disability but by approaching this as a part of your customer service, you are help your staff feel more confident about helping disabled customers. A short training session of 60-90 minutes can make a world of difference.

  2. Raise awareness about hidden disabilities. There is a growing movement to use ‘hidden disability’ signage for disabled facilities. This supports customers with a hidden disability and also raises awareness with your full customer base. It's also very low cost.

  3. Start a conversation. Understand the needs of your disabled customers and respond. No one expects you to be perfect but having an open and strong dialogue will help you understand where you can improve and keep in touch with what is a very loyal set of customers.

Helen Drury
Corporate Responsibility Manager


Tags: Sustainability & Community Engagement , Technology & Innovation