News & Updates
September 16, 2019
New research shows UK businesses – including high street brands – are losing millions of pounds of revenue every year by turning their backs on disabled consumers.
More than 13 million people in the UK – a fifth of the population – are disabled.
A new poll of people who consider themselves to be disabled has found that more than half of respondents are struggling to make purchases of a product/service due to their disability. Disabled young people (aged 16-24) fare the worst – more than three-quarters of them say they have found it difficult to buy goods online or in person due to their disability on more than one occasion.
Some four in five disabled customers say businesses could do more to be accessible and more than half (56%) agreed that improving staff understanding about different disabilities would encourage them to spend their disposable income, estimated to be £249 billion a year. Separate research has shown that 75% of disabled people have had to leave a store or website, unable to go through with their purchase because of their disability.
Respondents state that retail is the most accessible business to purchase from, followed by banking and hospitality/leisure/restaurants. The research comes as businesses and organisations prepare for ‘Purple Tuesday’ on 12 November, a day which celebrates UK companies that are improving the customer experience for disabled shoppers. Major names taking part include Sainsbury’s and Intu.
Mike Adams OBE, Chief Executive of Purple, the disability organisation behind Purple Tuesday, said:
“While many UK businesses and organisations are stepping up to the mark and making the changes needed to improve disabled customers’ experiences, far too many are not.
“This is a huge mistake, not least because by turning their backs on disabled shoppers, they are losing out on millions of pounds of revenue every year.
“It should simply not be the case that one in two disabled people struggle to make purchases online or in person. Small changes can make a big difference to the customer experience; we want to help organisations have the confidence to improve their services for disabled people.”
Disabled consumers told pollsters that inaccessible and unusable locations, poor customer service and a lack of understanding about disabilities were the main reasons they struggled to spend their money.
Over 1 in 5 said that hiring more disabled people would make them more likely to make a purchase and some stated that “wider aisles” or “lighter doors” would have the same effect. The findings support previous research, which shows that less than 10% of organisations have a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers4.
The potential of the purple pound is clear – disabled people say they spend on average £163 on retail per month, £98 on travel, £69 on insurance, £78 on hospitality (such as at restaurants or on leisure activities) and £19 on gym or health activities.
Carole Hughes (Pictured), from Liverpool, was born with spina bifida and has been using a wheelchair since 2015. She shops regularly at large supermarkets and department stores around the city. Carole said:
“I often have problems getting around stores and supermarkets, either because the aisles are too narrow or there are items blocking the way. It can be a challenge to find staff who are willing to help – sometimes I’m made to feel like a nuisance when I ask for basic assistance.
“There needs to be more consistency with staff training. Other things like making more doors open automatically and locating accessible parking spaces close to store entrances also make a huge difference to wheelchair users.
“I’d urge all organisations to sign up to Purple Tuesday and make sure they are providing a better shopping experience to their disabled customers.”
Organisations that register for Purple Tuesday will benefit from free resources from Purple on topics such as website accessibility and customer service training. In exchange, Purple asks that business make a minimum of one commitment to improve the customer experience for disabled people.
These commitments might be major transformations or simple, smaller steps that can improve the experience of disabled customers. Examples include conducting an audit of an organisation’s website to ensure it’s accessible or staff training to help them communicate effectively with disabled consumers.
For more information on Purple Tuesday, please visit www.purpletuesday.org.uk.
Last year, which was the first ever Purple Tuesday, more than 750 organisations took part, pledging 1,500 commitments to improve disabled people’s customer experiences. They included some of the biggest brands on the high street, including Argos, Asda, Barclays, Sainsburys.
Purple are proud to announce that we have multiple co-signed industry letters to help even more organisations get involved with Purple Tuesday to improve the customer experience for disabled people. We would like to encourage you to download the letter most relevant to your sector and distribute this within your network.
Download the Retail letter: co-signed by Mike Adams, Purple CEO and Samantha Sen, Retail Sector Champion Head of Policy and Campaigns, Revo.
Download the Travel letter: co-signed by Mike Adams, Purple CEO and Stephen Brookes MBE
Rail Sector Champion for the Minister for Disabled People
Download the Insurance letter: co-signed by Mike Adams, Purple CEO and Johnny Timpson
Disability Champion for the Insurance Industry and Profession
Download the Disability Confident Retailers letter: co-signed by Mike Adams, Purple CEO and Edward Warner, Spaces & Products Government Sector Champion
August 27, 2019
August 27, 2019
July 8, 2019
Allan lives in Wishaw with his wife Fiona, a care home worker, and last year was employed as a security guard for Motherwell Shopping Centre in Scotland.
During his time at Motherwell Shopping Centre, Allan was pleased to take part in Purple Tuesday – a day dedicated to changing the customer experience for disabled people. The shopping centre fully immersed itself in Purple Tuesday – staff wore purple t-shirts, the centre was filled with thousands of purple balloons and shop windows were decorated with purple stickers and banners. Most importantly, in addition to raising awareness on the day of Purple Tuesday, Motherwell Shopping Centre made a long-term commitment to their disabled customers and put their staff through a dementia awareness training course.
Shortly after Purple Tuesday, Allan was made aware that a regular shopper, known to staff as Jimmy, was visiting the centre. Jimmy was an older gentleman and well known to the centre’s security guards as he frequently became cross with shop staff and was often asked to leave as a result.
Inspired by what he had learnt through his dementia awareness training, Allan decided that perhaps there was a reason for the way Jimmy communicated with staff, so he spent a little time with Jimmy, to find out if he required any assistance. After speaking with him, Allan realised that Jimmy was living with dementia and was getting upset with shop staff when he couldn’t communicate his needs.
This simple offer of a conversation helped to solve Jimmy’s problem. Allan explains: “After I’d taken the time to speak to Jimmy, he explained he was looking for a part he needed to fix a clock but said shop staff couldn’t understand what he wanted. As frustrations rose, this usually resulted in Jimmy being asked to leave the shopping centre. I sympathised with him as I could see why this would be so upsetting.
“I accompanied Jimmy to a hardware store in the shopping centre that I thought might have the part. When he had what he needed, Jimmy became quite overwhelmed and started to cry a little. I think it was just out of sheer relief that someone had finally taken the time to listen to him and understand what he wanted.
“Due to what I have learnt through my wife’s work and my own dementia awareness training, I had a good understanding of some of the life challenges people with dementia face on a day-to-day basis. Purple Tuesday helps to remind us that not all disabilities are visible and some people require a little more assistance than others; I feel that I can somewhat relate to this, as I have a minor learning difficulty myself.
“I was able to help Jimmy that day and help him to overcome the frustrations he was facing as a customer. Although I personally no longer work at the shopping centre, I am told he still visits often and his experience has become that little bit easier – the centre has become an important community space for him.
“It’s true that a simple conversation can completely change someone’s experience, and I’m pleased I was able to help Jimmy that day.”
Purple Tuesday is a milestone awareness moment for an issue that is relevant 365 days a year. With support from Purple, businesses can change the customer experience for disabled people for good.
November 12, 2018
When I was growing up my disabled peers instilled in me the adage: ‘Nothing about us, without us’. In other words, issues of disability should centrally involve the lived experience of disabled people and their representative organisations.
Tomorrow, Purple Tuesday will model a modern-day version of that adage. If retail is to improve the accessibility of the shopping experience for disabled people and their families then awareness needs to be raised and the right commitments undertaken. This should be done alongside disabled people. And this is exactly what we are doing.
Purple Tuesday is not simply about one day. It is what follows over the next 364 days and beyond.
Therefore, it felt fitting to use my final blog to showcase the voices of other disabled people and their representative organisations.
Claire Bickley from Sight Loss Councils says:
“Shopping is an experience everyone should enjoy. As blind and partially sighted people we want retailers to recognise us as valued customers and making some small changes could go a huge way in improving our experience. On Purple Tuesday we will be visiting retailers at the Bullring in Birmingham to ask them about how they support people with sight loss who visit their shops.
We hope as many shops get on board with Purple Tuesday and recognise the power of the purple pound!”
Purple Tuesday has really shone a light on the issue of hidden disability and so we are delighted to be supported by Kathryn Albany-Ward, CEO of Colour Blind Awareness. Kathryn highlights the sensitivities and practicalities of even the colour purple:
“Despite the irony that most of the 3 million people in the UK that Colour Blind Awareness represents have never experienced the colour purple, we are fully behind Purple Tuesday. It’s a fantastic opportunity to highlight to retailers and landlords how they can generate additional turnover just by taking some simple steps. Here’s an opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives by ensuring an inclusive retail experience everyone, including those with hidden disabilities such as with colour blindness. In these competitive and uncertain times can you afford not to? Today isn’t about jumping onto bandwagons, so make the most of it.”
Pan-disability organisations are also showing their fill support. Clare Grey, Disability Advocacy Advisor at the Shaw Trust commented:
“Shaw Trust welcomes the opportunity to be involved and to support this vitally important initiative. As a charity that works extensively in this arena, we believe that it is intrinsic to our mission and values as an organisation that we do everything possible to achieve equality of opportunity and improve accessibility for all. We are sure the day will be a roaring success and we hope that this event helps to drive the change that makes accessibility a reality on Britain’s high streets.”
Organisations that provide a vital transport link to and from shopping destinations are also fully supportive of Purple Tuesday. David Bermingham, CEO of Accessible Transport has said:
‘We, the Accessible Transport Group (ATG) are a charity dedicated to supporting people across the West Midlands who have mobility restrictions, whether physical, mental or sensory. We are promoting our Ring and Ride service, igo Community bus routes and Birmingham Shopmobility to help make this event a success and raise awareness of accessibility’. David Bermingham Chief Executive.
AccessAble (formerly Disabled Go) have recently published a survey involving 845 disabled people right across the UK, about the quality of information provided by venues, only 14% of recipients felt they received the quality of information required with 77% of respondents having left a venue after finding accessibility wasn’t what they expected. A challenge but straightforward to make a significant difference. Barry Stevenson, Chair of AccessAble commented:
“We fully support Purple Tuesday and hope it will raise awareness of the barriers disabled people and carers face. Our recent survey has shown the overwhelming need for better accessibility information to enable people to find the places that are right for them. We hope that this need for information is viewed alongside staff training, physical access improvements and inclusive employment practices to create a more inclusive shopping experience for all.”
Tomorrow is the big day. Let’s work together to shine a light on accessibility and the importance of making the shopping experience inclusive for all.
November 5, 2018
When we first started out we thought, if we were lucky, we would have about 50 organisations involved in Purple Tuesday. As a new venture, we knew it was the right thing to do and knew it had potential but could only dream of having the platform of Sky News and the success of 100s of sign-ups. At just over 500 registrations of interest, we have well and truly surpassed even what was in our dreams!
I have spoken to many of you electronically and read your survey responses. The pledges and commitments you are making will ensure the impact will be so much more than just one day. And many more of you are not stopping at just one commitment but are putting in place a series of actions to transform the shopping experience for disabled people and their families. There are too many to list, but here are some of the commitments we have been told of:
- Those who have previously introduced quiet hours are changing the day and time to make it a more prominent part of their customer offer
- Organisations are refreshing their training offer (Hello, can I help you?) to include disability modules
- Many of you are undertaking web accessibility audits
- Organisations already surveying customers want to include accessibility questions going forward
- Some of you are using the 13 November as the day to launch pre-planned initiatives which will improve the customer experience
As well as these commitments, I have also seen so many exciting plans for the day itself, from purple cakes being served in cafes to purple lighting, information stands hosted by local disability organisations to purple dressed mannequins – we even have a special edition purple version of a shopping centre logo in recognition of the day!
Alongside those directly involved in retail we have received a huge level of support from disabled people and their representative organisations. Our direct call to action to this important group is also going out so we will be able to share with you the direct experience of disabled people when they shop. We are also delighted so many local authorities, wider community groups and others are so keen to get involved in any way they can.
I, and the rest of Purple, are so excited about Purple Tuesday. Not just for the day itself, but for what it can achieve. We have always said this is not about one day. The 13thNovember is about raising awareness to instigate longer term change for the benefit of all.
Together, I truly believe we are and will create something really special.
Corporate Services Manager, Purple
October 26, 2018
Last week Mike Adams talked about the origin of Purple Tuesday, and why it is so important to him and disabled people.
As Retail Sector Champion, I wanted to say a few words about why disability is important to retail.
As Co-Chair of the Government’s retail roundtable I can say I was there when Mike first made the suggestion last November. It was a fantastic idea and an easy proposition for everyone to support. And the number of retail outlets, shopping centres and landlords signing up every day reinforces the willingness of retail, as a whole, to make the shopping and leisure experiences a pleasure for everyone.
At Revo, we launched our Accessible Places toolkit containing a range of practical resources, supporting the sector navigate its way through issues of disability. In so many ways, Purple Tuesday is a natural extension of this, with retail companies making public commitments to introduce at least one new initiative – and to embed it into the DNA of what they do. I have been amazed and humbled by the ideas and creativity in equal measure. From organisations who are supporting their staff to learn hello and goodbye in British sign language, commitments to reflect disability and disabled people in marketing campaigns, the creation of a disability module, through to an audit of website accessibility and commitments to improve signage.
Collectively, these commitments will make a huge impact. The retail sector can have such an enormous part to play in making retail places up and down the country inclusive and welcoming to people and families with disabilities.
I am proud to be associated with Purple Tuesday and so should you.
Retail Sector Champion for Disability
October 22, 2018
With 24 days to go until the first Purple Tuesday, I continue to be astounded by how much interest and support we are receiving. The last three months have been a whirlwind, from our launch on Sky News (which we could not have anticipated, and which catapulted a vision into a reality) to today when we are at over 300 registrations of interest and expecting upwards of 500 organisations on the day. I have spoken to many of you already and am committed to speaking to as many of you personally as possible either before, during or immediately after Purple Tuesday.
I am first and foremost a CEO and business leader in my own right, but as a disabled man Purple Tuesday will always be about more than it just making business sense.
During my childhood disabled people were in many ways not to be seen, or if we were, were seen as beneficiaries of charity and users of welfare and care. I used to get taken on my school ‘happy bus’ as we called it, from my special school in Sussex once a month to the nearby town where we were taken into one shop as a ‘treat’ and able to spend any pocket money our parents had provided. The shop and town itself treated our arrival like a special event. I very much felt a disabled person, rather than a person first who happened to have a disability.
Fast forward to 2018, and the world is a very different place for sure. Our towns and shops are far more accessible, and I believe I am generally treated the same as people who do not have a disability. But I still feel a sense of trepidation. Shop staff are still unsure of engaging with me – not because of prejudice, but a fear of unintentionally offending me through the wrong language or etiquette. This results in them swerving the conversation altogether. This can make life feel ‘very disabled’ when I go shopping. Physical access still remains an issue for me. Many stores have wheelchair access now, which is great, but it’s when you get inside the difficulties can start with crowded layouts making it very difficult to get around without damaging anything. Essentially my shopping experience can be stressful, which in turn puts me off going (if you put aside the fact I don’t like shopping anyway!), which in turn means I potentially don’t make purchases.
These experiences are not unique to me which is why I created Purple. A company that for the first time would uniquely bring together an understanding of disability and an understanding of business, with a vision and mission to create true societal change for the benefit of both.
Purple Tuesday is an embodiment of that vision. It will bring together disabled consumers with retailers to raise awareness of the barriers and experiences of disabled people, whilst also fully acknowledging it is not about one day. It is about a commitment to accessible services and understanding the challenges business also face. True change doesn’t happen in one day or overnight.
I truly believe we are on the brink of something big which can make a difference to the everyday lives of disabled people as well as the wider business cultural attitudes towards disability. We have already had international interest in the day and we can show the world how its done, firmly establishing the UK as leaders in this field.
So let’s do this. Let’s make 2018 the year of the first accessible shopping day, and the catalyst for making the UK a more accessible place.
Mike Adams OBE
Chief Executive Officer, Purple
To register your interest to take part in Purple Tuesday, please visit purpletuesday.org.uk
Already registered for Purple Tuesday, but want to find out more about how Purple can support you to deliver your commitment to improve accessibility? Please click here to find out more about Purple’s membership offer.
September 4, 2018
In our latest webinar Mike Adams, CEO of Purple and Sam Sen, Retail Sector Champion, talk about Why Purple Tuesday is so important and how the sector can get involved in turning the UK purple on 13th November.
August 14, 2018
London, Tuesday 14th August – The UK’s first day dedicated to accessible shopping will take place during the run up to Christmas 2018. ‘Purple Tuesday’ on Tuesday 13th November will see retailers across the country – and online – introduce new measures to make the shopping experience more inclusive for disabled customers.
The initiative is being co-ordinated by the disability organisation Purple and has been endorsed by the government. Leading brands including Argos, Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Marks & Spencer have already pledged their support, as have owners of some of the UK’s busiest shopping destinations such as The Crown Estate, Landsec (Bluewater) and Hammerson (Birmingham Bullring).
Estimates put the collective spending power of disabled people and their families (the ‘Purple Pound’) at £249bn. However, research by the Department for Work and Pensions puts both shopping and eating and drinking out in the top three most difficult experiences for disabled people based on accessibility.
These issues are felt more acutely in the peak Christmas shopping period. A poll of 200 disabled people by Purple back in December found that more than one in two disabled people were concerned about overcrowding. A similar proportion said they have left a store or abandoned a purchase because of a poor customer experience.
Purple Tuesday will also promote accessible e-commerce. The Click-Away Pound survey suggests that retailers are missing out on significant volumes of online sales. In 2016, inaccessible websites and apps accounted for an estimated £11.75 billion in lost revenue in the UK alone.
The organisers are calling on more retailers to join them in signing up to take part on the day and to look at how they can delight their disabled customers – in-store or online – and reap the commercial benefits.
“There’s a vast array of adjustments retailers can make that will have a significant impact, and many that can be implemented quickly,” explains Mike Adams, CEO of Purple. “Customer service is a perfect example – as part of Purple Tuesday we’ll be providing a simple training kit to help in-store staff feel confident in assisting disabled shoppers.”
“Less than 10% of companies have a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers. Fundamentally, Purple Tuesday isn’t about a single day in the year but encouraging lasting change that creates a virtuous circle between businesses and disabled consumers.”
Jo Moran, Head of Customer Service at Marks & Spencer said: “The accessibility of our stores and website is extremely important to us, so we’re delighted to support Purple Tuesday. Taking place in the run up to Christmas it’s a great opportunity for us to refresh our training with colleagues to ensure we’re offering the best possible service for all our customers.”
Tim Fallowfield, Company Secretary & Corporate Services Director for Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re extremely proud to be supporting Purple Tuesday. As part of our vision to be the most inclusive retailer, we are always looking for ways to improve and adapt to meet our customers’ needs, which was brought to light with Sainsbury’s achieving Disability Confident Leader Status last year. By taking steps towards improving accessible shopping during the busiest shopping period of the year, we hope to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges, while also providing an enhanced shopping experience for our disabled customers.”
The Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, Sarah Newton, said: “Shopping should be a pleasant experience, but for many disabled people it can often be the cause of distress and frustration. By failing to cater to their disabled customers, many businesses are missing out on billions of pounds and denying disabled people the opportunity to enjoy something which many people take for granted.
“I look forward to working alongside Purple and members of my Disability Retail Forum on this hugely important agenda, highlighting examples of best practice in the retail sector and encouraging others to make small changes which can make a massive difference to their customers.”
Russell Loveland, Landsec’s Senior Portfolio Director, Retail, said: “Purple Tuesday is a brilliant initiative, which Landsec is very proud to support. We’re committed to improving the experience of shopping for disabled guests at our retail destinations.”
Mark Bourgeois, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Hammerson, said: “As curators and managers of destinations, it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone in the community feels comfortable using them. Our centres are focal points within cities and it is important that they are accessible to all. Purple Tuesday is a welcome opportunity and one we are thoroughly supportive of.”
The full list of participating businesses and Purple Tuesday events will be announced in October. For more information please visit purpletuesday.org.uk
Full list of launch organisations:
- British Retail Consortium
- Marks & Spencer
- The Crown Estate