We passionately believe that necessary change is afoot in the retail industry, and that you
can be a part of it.
Innovative brands are responding to a greater desire from consumers for ‘omnibility’, which
refers to a wider narrative surrounding more inclusive solutions which in turn enhance
We saw during the pandemic for example, retailers quickly amend their behaviour to adhere
to those who were more vulnerable – offering quieter shopping hours for the community.
Similarly, as a more permanent strategy, Asda have recently introduced a way-finding app in-store suited to assist visually impaired customers whilst they shop, whilst Sainsbury’s
launched the ‘Signsbury’s’ campaign, designed to encourage customers to engage with,
learn and use sign language in an inclusive, pop-up supermarket.
Further afield - Starbucks opened their sign language store in Shanghai, where 5 of the 12
employees are deaf.
All three of these examples serve as great omnibility solutions, however, there is still a huge
amount of work to be done, and significant change is required to ensure that disabled
consumers have a better, and more pleasurable retail experience.
A cause particularly close to our hearts and one which we feel more brands and businesses should be championing to lean into this desire for omnibility is Purple Tuesday.
What is Purple Tuesday?
Purple Tuesday is a global social movement, created to encourage brands to develop a more accessible shopping experience.
The best way to promote this cause is by facilitating a dedicated hour which invites disabled people to shop in a quieter, calming retail environment, one which considers their specific needs.
And given the vast spending power of those considered disabled ($13 trillion globally) – brands that neglect initiatives like Purple Tuesday are not only falling short when it comes to inclusivity but also financially.
In Conversation with Sonia Withers
To provide further enlightenment, we spoke to Purple Tuesday advocate Sonia Withers who provided insight on the daily challenges she and her children face, and where the gaps in expectation and action lie in the current retail landscape.
Sonia herself has four sons - three of which suffer with a rare disability called ‘Fragile X Syndrome’; whilst her youngest son, is also severely autistic. It is particularly emotive therefore listening to the frustrations that Sonia experiences trying to engage with retailers and do one of the things that able-bodied people take for granted - go shopping.
We hope that by sharing Sonia’s experiences with you, we can encourage more brands and businesses to avoid the promotion of Purple Tuesday as a tick box exercise and to instead demonstrate how genuine steps can be taken towards committing to and raising the causes visibility.
How can we change for the better?
Be considerate, not commercially driven
It is common for brands and retailers when committing to Purple Tuesday, to provide solutions that are shaped by their own commercial gain.
‘It [Purple Tuesday] does happen, it is at an inconvenient time…say 8’o’clock in the morning…and whilst that sounds amazing, in an ideal world it is the worst time. Most of these stores you have to drive to, in rush hour and if you have a child with a learning disability, such as autism – they can’t cope with being in a traffic jam.’ Sonia Withers
Solution: Work with experts to define the best time and circumstances for this customer type. Sonia, for example suggests that 11am would be hugely beneficial to both disabled people and their carers.
Keep the music down!
An important part of purple Tuesday is being able to create a calming environment. However, the general retailer’s understanding of noise and how it impacts people with disabilities, is inadequate.
‘Jack, who is as I say severely autistic but also has acute hearing? He would actually hit out because he cannot cope with the noise.’ Sonia Withers
Solution: Commit to times when music is lowered or turned off completely across the store.
Manage Store Traffic
Another important but un-addressed element is store traffic. Busy stores and long queues often create a sense of confusion and stress amongst disabled shoppers.
‘[Jack] cannot queue – he has not got the concept. If we then stood and there’s 3 or 4 people, he wouldn’t cope his mind is blown for him. He cannot accept it takes time to get to the counter’ Sonia Withers
Solution: To navigate, or reduce this stress, brands could make better use of digital systems, personal shopping and traffic flow management.
In the absence of additional support – something retailers could prioritise is adequate space for disabled people to be able to shop in. Not only would this allow customers to feel less claustrophobic but would mean clothes were easier to browse.
Provide Staff Training
Providing a basic level of training to a member of staff, would allow different brands to offer additional support to those like Sonia and her family to make the customer experience, feel less stressful.
Solution: Sonia emphasises this does not have to be an over-complicated service: “actually less is more” – the need lies in making those like Jack feel looked after and supported whilst in-store, it is as simple as someone “to just be with him and picking up things – he would choose and do the rest”.
Act now: The Purple Tuesday Playbook
There are key actions that can be taken to make retail environments more accessible for people facing disabilities. We have outlined these in the Purple Tuesday Playbook below.
Aside from the importance of carrying out these steps which show how brands can lean into the growing desire in retail for omnibility – brands should not under-estimate the weight of the purple pound.
The benefit of participating in Purple Tuesday is two fold – not only will aligning to this cause demonstrate a wider commitment to this less seen group of consumers, it will allow brands to capitalise on the value of the purple pound.
Action begins with awareness, and so we encourage you to share Sonia’s story and long-term battle with raising awareness for Purple Tuesday.
We genuinely feel that more brands and businesses should be facilitating better accessibility so please do get in touch with us too if you have any further questions – we would love to help. And remember:
Turn off your music
Reduce traffic & queuing
Offer a personal shopper
Create wide, spacious aisles
& finally, take time into account!