‘Accessibility’ is a word that has had a lot of use in recent times and there are some very good reasons for this. In the retail sector it starts with a simple equation of bringing together customers with products – the more accessible your store is, the more people can potential buy from it.
An inaccessible store automatically creates problems, and not just for disabled or elderly customers. Accidents are more likely to happen if a store is relying on steps or stairs up to the entrance, as well as internally. In fact, internal stairs are an accident hotspot – whether in the home, the office, or a retail business – and replacing these trip hazards with something like a platform lift can make an environment much safer. Health and safety rules and requirements in the UK highlight how important it is for retailers to assess potential risks and hazards – both to customers and to their own staff. If risks are uncovered and steps are not taken to deal with them, the penalties can be substantial.
REGULATIONS AND LAW
Health & safety law in the UK is not the only legislation to bear in mind when looking at accessibility in the retail industry. The Equality Act requires employers and service providers to take steps to make an environment more accessible or to overcome physical features that obstruct access. While the legislation itself isn’t specific, this could include installing ramps or platform lifts, for example, as these overcome the problem that stairs can present to accessibility. The same is true for building regulations – commercial buildings come with their own requirements on issues such as escape, access and fire precautions.
Disabled customers have £80bn-worth of spending power and for retailers excluding such a significant market is a big mistake. Similarly, at £320bn a year, the over-50s now account for around 47% of all UK consumer spending – and these figures are set to rise. These two sections of the market are often underestimated but actually represent some of the most powerful consumers in the UK.
Adapting stores and shopping centres to allow access for customers who may struggle with stairs, from pram-pushing parents to elderly customers, it is simply common sense for those stores that are looking to remain competitive. In fact, there may well come a point where it’s not possible to be competitive without bearing these consumers in mind.
NEED SOME HELP?
Gartec supply, install and maintain platform lifts in thousands of retail store locations across the UK, giving us a wealth of experience and knowledge in the field.
If you need help with planning and picking an access solution, our team is always on hand with great advice and site specific information and drawings. Just get in touch!