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BIRA explores accessibility in latest podcast

The British Independent Retailers Association has released the second episode of its High Street Matters podcast series, this time tackling the important issue of accessibility for independent retailers.

The episode ‘Accessibility – Unlocking The High Street’ looks at why and how indie traders should focus on making their retail spaces more inclusive. Featuring interviews with key figures, the podcast explores the commercial benefits of embracing accessibility.

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of BIRA, said: “Many indie traders talk to me about this. They want to be accessible. They can do the things they can control themselves, but a lot of the time they see steps taken around them where people are putting barriers up to coming to the shops and the high streets and often parking is seen as one of those barriers.”

Andrew questioned how some local authorities can create barriers and added: “They are wanting to be greener, wanting to be more sustainable, wanting to be in their eyes more inclusive. A lot of those plans invariably lead to pedestrianised areas, a realigning of the road network, effectively removing cars out of the town centre… but when you start changing a place and creating unseen barriers to people using that place, that starts when these plans are not cohesive and not thought out.”

Tony Elvin, general manager of Touchwood Shopping Centre, said prioritising accessibility has driven success through schemes such as Purple Tuesday and ShopMobility.

Tony explained: “An independent newsagent’s feedback from Purple Tuesday was that a wheelchair user since he moved his shop around they couldn’t get a wheelchair through. They could get to the counter but couldn’t get around everything they needed. And literally, by turning a counter around he has seen his business increase by people being able to get into his store. He felt like he should have known this already, but only when he received it he realised it. He was delighted by the fact that small changes to make his store more accessible made such a difference.”

The podcast also features insights from Alisa Forbes of the International Longevity Centre UK, whose recent “Healthy Retail, Hints and Tips” report underscored the business case for making shops more accessible.

Alisa said: “Above all else it makes commercial sense. A headline statistic tells us that by 2040 older households could be responsible for spending 63p in every £1 by customers. There is also a study which shows a positive in-person experience turns that one-off customer into a loyal repeat customer, whether that’s a clean toilet, a welcoming smile, product at the right height.

“Customers spend in shops when they feel comfortable and welcome. And there is also a moral and social benefit too…our local shops are really vital to the health of our local communities and retailers have a key role in enabling customers to live healthier, happier and more active lives by the actions they take.”

Hosted by journalist Steve Dyson, the podcast guides retailers through affordable ways to enhance accessibility within their premises while highlighting the moral, social and economic incentives.

Independent retailers across the UK can subscribe to the “High Street Matters” podcast through major streaming platforms.

New episodes will be released throughout the year and feature issues including the sale of hazardous substances, the cycle to work scheme and many other themes relevant to retailers today.


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