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Supermarkets: the pandemic, and the future for disabled customers
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 findingsOur 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.
- 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.
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
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.
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)
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
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