It’s time for a rethink.

Majority of us now browse the shops online instead of walking the high street. With amazon coming a long way since its time as a book-seller, we are all guilty of lining the pockets of billionaire Jeff Bezos in pursuit of the cheapest price. But at what cost? With the newly established gig economy and a boom in zero hour contracts all feed the huge corporate monsters like amazon, uber, just eat, deliveroo. Who in turn take money away from our traditional high streets where well known establishments such as Debenhams, House of Fraser and HMV are struggling to keep their heads above the water. So what can be done to stop the decline of our high street?

Accessibility Opportunity

As the high street is struggling to keep up with the relentless price reductions from online sellers, all whilst business rates, rent and overall costs of having retail space escalate year on year, what can be done to change this? One thing I think all retailers who want to remain and challenge their online competitors can do is offer something they cannot, an experience. Visiting a shop and having a positive experience only compounds the probability of you revisiting that business and spending even more of your hard earned cash there. Not only that but you will tell your friends, family and work colleagues about how great your experience was and recommend them to buy from you too. This type of situation is particularly relevant for shoppers who have accessibility requirements. If the shoppers are accommodated and feel valued they will spend their money. Here are some ideas on what can be done.

Get your online info right

Your website will be the first port of call for any shopper with a disability. They will check out your facilities online to see if you are accommodating to their needs. So if they don’t see the information they need the likelihood is that they probably won’t visit your business.  Instead choosing to shop with someone who clearly states their accessibility info in a clear and concise way. 

 

Access Guides

DisabledGo now reimagined as AccessAble offer a large number of accessibility information for a number of retailers like Marks and Spencers, Next and Boots. They have thousands of access guides all found by a simple search. The access guides are text based and are supported by photos where appropriate.

iRoam: The Virtual Video Tour

Access Social Ltd have developed an innovative solution to support visitors with access requirements. iRoam is the world’s first virtual video tour that is aimed at improving accessibility for disabled people. The main aim is to create a real world experience that could be explored online, without the need of invasive virtual headsets. Shoppers can explore the sights and sounds of the shops online and get a realistic representation of what to expect when they arrive in person.  An example of how an iRoam video functions in a retail environment can be found on the Grand Arcade website.

Great staff training

I am always a believer in using disability lead organisations for all your disability training and access auditing. Who could possibly be better at training your staff than someone who experiences these barriers and issues on a daily basis? Well the answer is short, no one. Search your local area for disabled lead organisations or companies run by disabled people to get the best form of training for your staff. Why not take a look at some leading providers at Greater Manchester Coalition for Disabled People, Mik Scarlet, Proudlock Associates.

To conclude

Improved online information will allow customers to plan their journey more effectively before they come to your shop. It also gives them the sense that your business values disabled customers by providing detailed information about their premises. The training will identify some small changes that might need to happen to the structure of the shop itself, for example lowered counters, accessible changing rooms, enough floor space for wheelchairs to maneuver around the shop safely. The training will also provide staff with the correct mindset and knowledge about how to support disabled customers with dignity and respect.

Ultimately you will create a much more attractive space for one of the most lucrative emerging demographic of shoppers, known as the “purple pound”. Please see a recent blog post about this, and with £249 billion pound at their disposable it makes perfect business sense to accommodate ALL customers.