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More than one in every two disabled customers (55%) said they are most worried about overcrowding when carrying out their Christmas shopping this year, according to research conducted by disability-focused social enterprise Purple.

New estimates put the collective spending power of disabled people and their families (the ‘Purple Pound’) at north of £250bn. More than a third say they are planning to spend at least £100 on presents this Christmas. But with just one week to go until the big day, the survey of over 200 disabled consumers shows that retailers still have work to do to convince them to part with their cash.

The majority (54%) said a poor shopping experience has led to them either leaving a store or abandoning a purchase. As well as overcrowding, other key concerns included disabled access (28%) and poor customer service (10%).

Despite the rise of online shopping, a good in-store experience remains important for disabled people. Just 17% say they will make most of their purchases online, while double that amount (34%) will do the majority of their shopping on the high street.

Commenting on the findings, Purple CEO Mike Adams said: “Many people find Christmas shopping can be stressful, but the seasonal rush can be particularly daunting for disabled people. We have already seen a number of retailers introduce ‘quiet hours’ for autistic customers, so we’d like to see more initiatives like this so that disabled people can feel welcome on the high street.”

When asked what makes a good retail experience for them, customer service (55%) was by far the most important factor amongst those surveyed, with access (16%) a distant second place. Respondents asked for shop assistants to speak directly to them (not to their carer, partner or family member), actively offer to help, and be patient.

“Accessible shopping is about so much more than parking spaces, toilets and wide aisles,” Adams added. “Our research shows that providing good service to disabled consumers is the key to unlocking the Purple Pound. Disabled people simply want to be treated like all other customers. Get this right and they will spend their money, and in the process retailers can win new, loyal customers.”

This summer Purple launched the Help Me Spend My Money campaign to raise awareness of the importance of disability-friendly customer service. They are calling on UK retailers to join existing supporters such as intu and Marks & Spencer and back the campaign.

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