Keeping Customers On the Move: Accessibility Considerations for Retail

Genevieve Morris
Genevieve Morris
Guest Contributor

From ramps to platform lifts, there are numerous options that will make your store space more attractive to differently abled shoppers.

There are 12.9 million differently-abled people in the United Kingdom, and government figures indicate this demographic is worth £200 billion a year in terms of spending power (figures from 2014). Statistics from the charity Scope indicate that 45% of pension age adults are disabled and, given the aging nature of the UK population, the actual number of potential shoppers this translates to is likely to increase in the coming years.

In addition, research from consumer research organisation Nielsen in the United States also identified disabled consumers spend more than non-disabled consumers – 86% more, according to their research.

Accessing a growing market

All of the above numbers indicate the disabled shopper market is one that can make a big difference
to the bottom line of any retailer. Given that mobility is one of the most common impairments for differently-abled individuals, ensuring a store is accessible to those who struggle with this has a big impact in terms of whether that market is available to your business. A practical and welcoming attitude to disabled shoppers does a lot to boost positive reputation and can also help to avoid claims being made under UK anti-discrimination legislation, whether by employees or customers.

Taking a more accessible approach

For retailers looking to create a more accessible environment, key considerations include customer entrance and exit from the building, as well as moving between floors. Disabled customers won’t shop in stores that provide physical obstacles for them, and unfortunately there are plenty of those. In 2014, accessibility experts DisabledGo visited 30,000 venues across the UK and found that disabled shoppers were not being catered for. A fifth of shops completely excluded wheelchair users because of factors such as the design of the entrance, and many leading national retailers simply haven’t put much thought into retail spaces that accommodate those who might be visually, hearing or physically impaired.

A competitive advantage

Not only does it make good business sense to better cater to the disabled market in order to attract more customers, but it can also create a competitive advantage too. Whether a smaller store looking to compete better with larger shops, or a larger store seeking to capture more customers, the advantage of opening up to a market with such significant spending power is obvious.

Accessibility solutions

There are some very simple solutions for making a store more accessible and incorporating these into your business can generate almost instant positive results.

Store entrances – steps are probably the biggest problem for disabled customers looking to enter a store. Installing a ramp, adding hand rails and considering an external platform lift that creates a separate entrance for disabled visitors are all simple solutions that require very little structural disruption.

Moving around in store – escalators have become commonplace for stores that reach across multiple floors. For someone in a wheelchair or with balance issues, the escalator is an impractical prospect. Internal platform lifts can accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and provide a stable, safer alternative for people with mobility problems.

Store exits – accidents happen often on staircases, particularly if they are being used in a rush or with lots of bags to carry. Provide a store exit that has ramps instead of stairs and – if possible – offers space for disabled parking so that customers who have lots of purchases can deposit them straight into the car. Make sure exits are well lit and suitably designed to allow for a flow of foot traffic, as well as wheelchairs.

It’s not that difficult to adapt a store to take better account of accessibility considerations. From ramps to platform lifts, there are numerous options that will make your space more attractive to the disabled customer market.

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