Supermarkets: the pandemic, and the future for disabled customers — Scope | Disability forum
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Supermarkets: the pandemic, and the future for disabled customers

Tori_Scope
Tori_Scope Scope Campaigns Posts: 12,462 Disability Gamechanger

You might have seen that Scope have produced a report highlighting the barriers that disabled consumers have faced in accessing online, delivery, and in-store retail services during the pandemic. 

You can read the report here on Scope's website. It's quite long, but well worth a read. I've put a summary of some of the key points below. We'd love to hear your thoughts, so please comment and let us know what your experiences and views are!

Buying food and essentials should be an easy experience, free from barriers. But for disabled people, supermarket shopping presents challenges. We look at the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on disabled people’s shopping experiences.

This report highlights the range of barriers that disabled customers have experienced over the last year, both online and in store. 

Research findings

Our research highlighted some priority concerns about disabled people’s access to food and shopping at supermarkets.

Shopping in store

  • Disabled customers are less comfortable shopping in-store than they were before the pandemic.
  • a third of disabled people feel ‘apprehensive’ or ‘uncomfortable’ about shopping in-store.
  • 71% of disabled people changing where they shopped due to their negative experiences.
  • only 51% of people feel comfortable asking for help from staff in-store. Compared to 67% before the pandemic. 1 in 5 people do not ask supermarket staff for assistance even if they need help.
(Source: Opinium polling May 2021)

Shopping online

  • Just under half (45%) of disabled people surveyed said they experienced accessibility issues with the supermarket’s website or app when buying food online.
  • Many of the supermarket coronavirus policies made ordering food online difficult or no longer possible. Like delivering shopping without plastic bags and drivers not bringing shopping into homes.
(Source: Big Hack crowdsourcing data)

Buying food and essentials online

Before the pandemic, disabled people regularly faced accessibility issues when shopping online, such as:

  • poor colour contrast
  • poor website navigation
  • pop-ups and adverts

But many disabled people said that the pandemic made online shopping much harder for them.

58% of calls to our helpline in May 2020, were about difficulty getting food and essentials.

Some of the main issues disabled people faced were related to:

  • Deliveries and increased demand
  • Accessing priority delivery slots
  • Increased delivery charges and minimum spend requirements
  • Poor customer service
  • Supermarkets stopping the use of plastic bags

Finding solutions to these problems requires supermarkets to collaborate with their disabled customers.

Recommendations: improving disabled customers' online experience

  • Reduce delivery costs
  • Improve customer service
  • Provide supermarket staff with disability awareness training
  • Keep plastic bags as a reasonable adjustment
  • Ensure user testing and compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
supermarket aisle

Buying food and essentials in store

As with online shopping, many of the barriers that disabled people reported existed before coronavirus. But they became more pronounced because of the pandemic.

We wanted to know if disabled people found shopping in-store more comfortable again as restrictions started to ease.

Supermarket sentiment before, during and after the pandemic

We asked disabled shoppers to rate their overall in store shopping experience. We wanted to see how many disabled shoppers felt ‘good’ or ‘very good’ about shopping in store.

  • 67% felt good or very good, before lockdown.
  • 45% felt good or very good, during lockdown.
  • 50% felt good or very good, after restrictions eased (12 April 2021).

(Source: Scope Opinium poll May 2021)

Supermarkets need to restore the trust and comfort levels of their disabled customers.

Our Opinium poll showed us, that since restrictions were eased:

  • 31% of disabled people feel apprehensive about shopping in store.
  • 29% of disabled people feel uncomfortable about shopping in store.

Attitudes

Many said that the attitudes of other customers contributed to their negative shopping experience.

  • 29% described other customer as disinterested.
  • 26% described them as ignorant.
  • 19% said they were judgmental.

Asking staff for help

Disabled people tended to have a more positive experience of supermarket staff.

  • 39% said staff were helpful.
  • 35% said they were friendly.
  • 21% said they were supportive.

But, before the pandemic 67% of disabled people said they were comfortable asking staff for help. During lockdown this dropped to 46% and has only increased slightly to 51% since lockdown was eased.

Schemes do exist to support disabled customers that need help with their shopping. For example, wearing disability lanyards or carrying a card to communicate their impairment.

We found 47% of disabled shoppers would consider signing up to a scheme like this.

(Scope Opinium Poll May 2021)

Physical barriers

The most common physical barriers that disabled people reported are:

  • large numbers of other customers
  • items and products out of reach
  • changing store layout and not knowing where items are

Recommendations: Improving disabled people's in store experience

  • Keep some coronavirus safety measures
  • Provide disability awareness training for in-store staff
  • Make a public commitment to disabled customers

What do you think about the recommendations made by Scope? How has your experience of shopping, both online and in-store, during the pandemic been? Do you think more needs to be done to ensure that disabled consumers feel welcome and safe when shopping? Do you have any other experiences or suggestions you'd like to share?
National Campaigns Officer, she/her

Join our call for an equal future.

Comments

  • woodbine
    woodbine Community member Posts: 10,411 Disability Gamechanger
    During the first lockdown we had no option other than to shop instore as you couldn't get a delivery slot from anybody.
    However since December we have had no problems whatsoever we have had a choice of 4 or 5 supermarkets to get a delivery from every week, as for delivery charges they have varied from free to a max. of £4.50, now because of where we live our only option to go shopping has been to have a taxi both ways at a cost of £13 so a delivery has been much cheaper.
    It takes some getting used to but we now have no issues ordering online, and for non food we use amazon prime next day delivery for around 25p a day.
    There has always been an issue with items being out of reach although at 6'2 I don't have a problem, and as for relocating stock thats unavoidable due to seasonal issues.
    I think charities should be careful of what they wish for as they risk alienating retailers by unrealistic demands, especially during what has been and remains a difficult time.
    Seasons greetings to one and all 🎄🎅🏻🌲
  • Lisatho11987777
    Lisatho11987777 Scope Member Posts: 5,911 Disability Gamechanger
    I dont think I will  go into shops  as much now as I have been doing shopping on line  I have popped in for milk sugar and bread but have noticed that not many people shop in store in the supermarket even at what is called busy times I do nearly all my shopping online in walez we still wear masks in shops and that is carrying on here when the rules change 

    I would still wear my mask anyway and I will still keep my distance from people I have wudows open in my house all the time and the back door to keep sir flowing through my house 

    At first I found it hard doing food shopping online because of the small writing but that has been sorted out now so the gs are alit better 

    I found it also alot easier to do morrison  shopping through amazon 
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Scope Campaigns Posts: 12,462 Disability Gamechanger
    I'm glad to hear that you've gotten used to ordering your shopping online @woodbine, and that you haven't had problems doing so since December. 
    I think charities should be careful of what they wish for as they risk alienating retailers by unrealistic demands, especially during what has been and remains a difficult time.
    Are there any specific recommendations in the report that you think are unrealistic? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.
    National Campaigns Officer, she/her

    Join our call for an equal future.
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Scope Campaigns Posts: 12,462 Disability Gamechanger
    I don't think you'll be the only one sticking to online shopping for the time being @lisathomas50

    Many people in England are deciding to continue wearing facemasks in shops despite the rule change here too, especially as many shops have asked customers to continue wearing them, but it'll be interesting to see how this changes over time. 
    At first I found it hard doing food shopping online because of the small writing but that has been sorted out now so the gs are alit better 
    I'm glad the size of the writing got sorted! Was it the company who improved the accessibility of their website, or did you find a workaround? 
    National Campaigns Officer, she/her

    Join our call for an equal future.
  • woodbine
    woodbine Community member Posts: 10,411 Disability Gamechanger
    Don't get me wrong i'm in favour of any improvements that make shopping instore or online as easy as possible for disabled people. But online shopping has increased massively during the pandemic and appears to be here to stay.
    Seasons greetings to one and all 🎄🎅🏻🌲
  • Lisatho11987777
    Lisatho11987777 Scope Member Posts: 5,911 Disability Gamechanger
    @Tori_Scope scope I had settings on my laptop that made the writing bigger and brightend the colours I love online shopping now 

    Out rules have been lifted in wales but face marks remain 

    My four year old granddaughter has got corona virus from nursery at first she didn't have symptoms but has now got a cough and feels poorly 

    I think certain rules should of stayed in longer I belive only we can keep ourself safe by using our common sense 
  • OverlyAnxious
    OverlyAnxious Community member Posts: 2,496 Disability Gamechanger
    Supermarkets have become much more difficult for me now, but are a necessity of course.  I can't physically get there reliably any more and am having a lot more challenges instore as well, not having the energy and strength to lift items, let alone carry bags into the car.  (Not all the pandemics fault in fairness!)

    I've tried the online shopping but the lack of bags and having to answer the door to the driver is making that pretty much impossible for me.  Last time (approx 2 weeks ago) I left some bags by the door with a very apologetic note asking them to bag it for me and leave stuff by the door as I could feel the anxiety symptoms getting to the point of not being able to walk to the door, let alone answer it...which was exactly what happened.  I sat frozen in panic, shaking and sweating and trying to keep bodily fluids from escaping in my own living room with all the doors and curtains closed when I heard the delivery van enter the carpark.  Not an experience I want to repeat tbh.  Physically going to the shop was always the lesser of two evils despite being agoraphobic, but some limitations are now beyond my control which is frustrating as I'm sure you'll all know.

    I am genuinely having to consider switching to online permanently as I haven't been able to drive or walk much at all over the last week.  But it's not fair on the drivers to expect them to bag stuff and leave it by the door...and I'm not even sure if that's really allowed within their policy.  I fully appreciate the environmental impact of plastic bags but I'm sure there could be an allowance made for people like myself to have paper bags or biodegradable ones.   

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