Research from Hammerson, the UK’s leading owner and manager of flagship retail destinations, reveals that 95% of the British public agree that shopping centres should cater for all shoppers and provide an accessible environment.
The research highlights that 90% of the British public believe that shopping centres play an important role within local communities and for carers and disabled consumers, creating a welcoming space 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 with other people when shopping are good for their mental health (compared to a 71% national average).
As part of its work to address this significant issue, on 13th November 2018, Hammerson is participating in Purple Tuesday – the UK’s first accessible shopping day, established to embed inclusive shopping and recognise the importance and needs of all consumers.
At The Oracle, in Reading, Hammerson has introduced the ‘Safe Space Scheme’. The scheme aims to help people with disabilities to feel confident and calm while visiting The Oracle through offering a range of specialised services, which include: special assistance while shopping inside stores; providing a guide to help shoppers and carers around the centre; or simply providing a temporary safe haven to sit in a quiet location.
Local community groups, including Reading Dementia, Action Alliance, AGE UK, Reading CIC and Autism Berkshire, are supporting the scheme. Reading is also the city within Hammerson’s shopping centre portfolio with the greatest demand for accessible and disabled-friendly facilities according to its recent research.
So far at The Oracle, 14 brands have registered for the Safe Space Scheme, including Lakeland, TM Lewin and Starbucks.
Hammerson is also trialling a number of different initiatives to assess the most impactful long-term measures to deliver a positive experience for the disabled community, their families and carers.
- Westquay in Southampton is hosting disability-friendly ice-skating
- Local Guide Dog charities are visiting Cabot Circus in Bristol, Silverburn in Glasgow, Victoria in Leeds and Westquay in Southampton
- The cinema at Dublin’s Dundrum Town Centre is showing an autism friendly screening
- At Bullring & Grand Central in Birmingham, Freefall Dance Company, an innovative initiative between Birmingham Royal Ballet and Fox Hollies Performing Arts College, will perform a choreographed ballet piece, specifically for Purple Tuesday with the performance showcasing ten highly gifted dancers with learning disabilities
- Also at Bullring & Grand Central, athletes from the British Wheelchair Basketball team will demonstrate their skills, encourage shoppers to have a go and boost support ahead of Birmingham hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games
- The majority of Hammerson’s retail destinations will also be participating in a mall ‘quiet hour’ with in-store music turned off to provide a calmer retail experience for those with sensory disabilities.
Mark Bourgeois, Managing Director UK & Ireland for Hammerson, said: “It is vital that our retail destinations make the shopping and leisure experience as welcoming as possible for all our customers. We know from research by the Department for Work and Pensions that shopping, eating and drinking out, is one of the top three most difficult experiences for disabled people based on accessibility. This shouldn’t be the case and we hope the initiatives we’re trialling demonstrate that much more can be done on Purple Tuesday and beyond.”
Mike Adams, CEO of Purple, added: “We’re delighted that Hammerson is supporting the Purple Tuesday campaign to promote better accessibility for disabled shoppers. This is a collaborative campaign that extends far beyond one day, and it’s vital that retail organisations come together to make shopping more pleasurable and efficient for everyone.”