At 9am on Thursday 6th July we arrived at Costa Coffee on level 2 at intu Lakeside Shopping Centre with one purpose: to tell as many people about our new Help Me Spend My Money campaign as we could before closing time.
Happily, many retailers are well aware of the importance of accessibility in terms of people’s physical needs – wheelchair ramps, lifts, etc. After all, it’s very hard for people with physical disabilities to do or buy very much without them!
Here are some less well known facts:
- 4 in 5 disabled people have a hidden impairment
- 75% of disabled people and their families say they have left a shop because of poor customer service
- UK businesses could be missing out on as much as £420 million a week in lost sales as a result
This is the hidden side to accessibility – providing customer service that meets the needs of people with disabilities.
I am always amazed (but shouldn’t!) at how many people are connected to a disabled person in some way. Son, daughter, niece, cousin or through a friend. Many people I talk to have observed that disabled people can appear invisible during a shopping experience and that staff actively avoid making eye contact or saying hello. They confirmed this had previously led to them leaving a shop without parting with a penny. I’m sure that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, staff members didn’t intend to cause offence, it just reflects a lack of confidence in interacting with disabled customers. Ironically, this is often driven by fear of causing offence!
As a disabled consumer myself, I have seen the best and worst of customer service on the high street. I will not name and shame any shops and instead focus on an example of how the experience should be. I am off to France next week and had to enter a well-known car/bike store to get my red triangle and hi-viz jackets. The support I received could not have been more impressive. On entering the store, I was asked if I needed any help, the products were taken to the till and then carried outside and put in the boot of my car. “All part of the service” I was told as I left – and I knew she meant it.
The aim of “Help Me Spend My Money” is to work in collaboration with the retail industry to make this level of customer service the norm. And the best news is that it’s in everyone’s best interests. The market opportunity is huge – over half of households in the UK have a connection to someone with a disability, and their collective spending power (the ‘purple pound’) is worth an estimated £249bn to the UK economy. 80% of disabled consumers choose to shop with retailers that support disabled people. So giving people with a disability a great shopping experience can win you loyal repeat customers and more sales!
We can’t change the conversation around disability without brilliant partners. We are very proud to be working with intu, who have made such a strong commitment to delivering an enjoyable and inclusive shopping experience. I was delighted to be joined by Alexander Nicoll, Corporate Responsibility Director, and Helen Drury, CR Manager and DWP’s retail sector champion for disabilities for our formal launch at intu Lakeside and to see Alexander sign our ‘charter for change’.
We had lots of positive conversations with customers and store managers throughout the day and we’re encouraging as many organisations as we can to join our cause.
For more information please visit the campaign website helpmespendmymoney.com