We’re on a mission to ensure our retail destinations have a positive impact on the communities surrounding them. Which is why getting involved in Purple Tuesday on 13th November was a given for us.
It’s the UK’s first accessible shopping day and encourages landlords and retailers across the nation – and online – to introduce new measures to make the shopping experience more inclusive for customers with disabilities.
It’s the right thing to do plus estimates put the collective spending power of disabled people and their families – dubbed the ‘Purple Pound’ by disability organisation Purple – 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 even more acutely in the peak Christmas shopping period when we all have to cope with more crowds which can make our shopping experiences a bit more challenging than usual.
Equally important, but often overlooked, is the non-economic value that retail destinations can have for the disabled community, and that includes family, friends and carers. Our research shows that 90% of the British public believe that shopping centres play an important role within local communities. For carers, this is particularly significant; 67% of carers say that shopping helps them to feel part of the community (versus a national average of 55%), and three quarters say that interactions when shopping are good for mental health (compared to a 63% national average). The public is overwhelmingly supportive of inclusive measures in shopping centres, with 95% agreeing that it is important for retail destinations to respect and cater for people with disabilities or impairments.
As proud supporters of Purple Tuesday, our shopping centres around the UK are participating in lots of different ways.
As well as promoting our existing shop mobility facilities, the centres have planned coffee mornings, drama performances, sign language choirs and wheelchair dances, and have Guide Dog and Samaritans charities visiting the malls.
Wherever possible, the centres will be using purple feature lighting for the day and centre teams will wear purple ribbons to raise awareness. We are also providing specialist training for our customer facing centre teams and retailers to make sure everyone is disability confident on the day and well equipped to help all our visitors
But this isn’t just about one day. Perhaps more importantly, we’re also trialling longer-term initiatives, to determine the most sustainable and impactful commitments that will make our centres as accessible and welcoming as possible. ‘Quiet hour’ has already been implemented across our UK portfolio to promote a more accessible retail experience for those with sensory disabilities, and in Reading’s Oracle centre, we’re introducing a pioneering ‘Safe Space Scheme’, to help people with disabilities feel confident and calm during visits.
We’re really pleased with the progress we’re making but we know there’s much more to be done.
Our assets have significant material impacts on the landscape, the environment, their local communities and local and regional economies. Such significant impacts must be managed responsibly, through real collaboration with our suppliers and clients; with respect for their local communities and with enough ambition to make them fit for the future generations they will serve.
Ultimately, it’s vital that community hubs such as major retail destinations are as accessible and enjoyable as possible for all members of society, and we look forward to warmly welcoming many Able magazine readers to our centres in the future.
 The spending power of disabled people and their families, Department for Work & Pensions, December 2016