How Accessible Are Shopping Centers In The United Kingdom For Retail Shoppers?

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In 2016, the UK’s population peaked at 65.6 million. Reportedly, 18% of the population were aged 65 and over. With an ageing population, are businesses accommodating for elderly people and their differing needs? Similarly, are they making themselves accessible to those with disabilities? 

Despite Britain’s disabled population having a spending power of £80bn, many retail stores are inaccessible to many. Some companies are potentially losing out on their share of the weekly £420m in sales by not having wheelchair ramps and access to all floors. 

Reportedly, 18% of the population were aged 65 and over. With an ageing population, are businesses accommodating for elderly people and their differing needs? Similarly, are they making themselves accessible to those with disabilities? 

Bootstrap Business looks at the ten biggest shopping centers in the UK and how accessible they are for those with mobility restrictions. 

The shopping centers considered include: 

• Metrocentre, Gateshead 
• Trafford Centre, Greater Manchester 
• Westfield Stratford City, London 
• Liverpool One, Liverpool 
• Bluewater Shopping Centre, Kent 
• Westfield London, Greater London 
• Merry Hill Centre, West Midlands 
• Meadowhall, Sheffield 
• Manchester Arndale, Manchester 
• Lakeside Shopping Centre, Essex 


The Disabled Parking Accreditation (DPA) is aimed at improving parking for disabled people and reducing incidences where non-blue badge holders misuse the designated spaces. The requirements to qualify include parking bays which meet specific dimensions, monitoring of accessible bays and easy entry to the car park. 

Amongst the ten biggest shopping centres in the UK, 40% have received the accreditation amongst which are Metrocentre in Gateshead and Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent. On the other hand, Merry Hill Centre in the West Midlands is not. 

In fact, disabled parking on-site at many of the big shopping centres on high street is limited. At Manchester Arndale, only 2% of spaces were dedicated to blue badge holders. Likewise, at Meadowhall Sheffield, this number stood at just under 3%. Westfield London shopping centre has 5% of their parking bays dedicated to disabled spaces, which should in theory increase the likelihood of disabled shoppers visiting the premises. 

Mobility Around The Center 

Those with a long-term disability often bring with them their own wheelchair or walking aids. However, it’s important for shopping centres to offer the facilities to hire this equipment for elderly people who may need some relief from walking around or those who struggle walking long distances. 

All of the big shopping centers offer facilities where it is possible to hire manual or electric wheelchairs or powered scooters. The process in the shopping centres do differ however. In the Trafford Centre, users must pay £2 per hour for the use of a wheelchair yet in Bluewater Shopping Centre, this cost is £3 for four hours. Lakeside Shopping Centre offers the use of the service entirely for free, as does the Metrocentre. 

Shopping Facilities 

A big consideration for disabled people and the elderly is the availability of appropriate toilets in shopping centres. Many people will avoid going certain places with the concern that they won’t have access to the facilities that they need. 

‘Changing places’ are facilities with a large accessible toilet, an adult-size changing bench and a hoist. This avoids people having to lie on toilet floors to be changed and provides enough room for carers to assist someone with going to the toilet comfortably. Unfortunately, there are only just over 1,000 changing places in the UK — yet millions of regular toilets for non-disabled people. There has been some improvement, as there were only 140 of these facilities across the UK in 2007. Only 50 out of around 500 shopping centers have them in the UK, but what about the ten biggest shopping centres? 

Our research found that 90% of the ten biggest shopping centres offer changing places, in fact Westfield Stratford City in London have two. Meadowhall in Sheffield also has accessible shower facilities — a great facility for disabled and elderly people who may be more prone to toilet accidents. 

As well as changing places, the number of disabled toilets that are available is also important. This means that older people or those with disabilities who visit the centres will be in close proximity to a disabled toilet should they need it. 

In the Metrocentre, there is one disabled toilet point per 48,600 m2 of retail space — the same distribution of regular toilets. In the Trafford Centre however, there is one disabled toilet point per 61,000 m2 of retail space and more regular toilets than disabled. Merry Hill have one per 21,666 m2 — providing disabled people with easier access to the facilities that they need. 

Accessibility Is Everything For Retailers & Shoppers

As we can see, there is still work to be done when it comes to giving disabled and elderly people the equal opportunities of non-disabled people when shopping. There are many things that all shopping centers should certainly consider implementing to improve the experience of disabled and elderly shoppers — including additional disabled toilets, changing places, ramps and more.

Other Ways To Boost Retail Shopping And Accessiblity

Use retail point-of-sale (POS) software and the retail POS system, over the standard cash register hardware. These benefits are: Immediate feedback on product sales and costs, Theft decline and Sales incentives. Ebay recommends to install such retail POS solutions when your annual sales go beyond $500,000. Yet, I will give you a completely different advice: Check these following elements and carry out the math. If you feel that your working retail POS solution will a lot more than pay for itself very quickly, you might want to purchase a retail POS. Instant tendency forecast With most cutting-edge retail POSs you'll have instant access to revenue and expenditure records from the stores during the business hours. You are able to assemble relevant developments as of categories of merchandise getting bought at any time of working day. You can now notice general trends when they happen. This can cause a extremely effective boost in your bottom line earnings. By using a retail POS system, the information you have is going to be exactly where you need it for the calculations and for trends recognizing, immediately. Theft minimization As shrinkage is among the serious expenses for most retail merchants, the present day retail POS systems are generally aimed toward stopping shrinkage. Suppose that you've got a person who you suspect of stealing money from the cash register. With a good retail POS solution, it will be easy to correlate that person or persons work schedule with all the minute-to-minute sales details. Coupled with mounted security camera info, a modern retail POS system is a major shrinkage deterrent. 

Carry out coupon incentives Sales offers are easily put in place using a modern day retail POS. Both establishing the coupon promotions and redeeming shopper discount coupons is simple. This helps boost sales. When it comes to staff performance, their own gross sales figures can be monitored by using a retail POS system, and a commission plan and payouts could be released every day. This information definitely will help increase sales via very clear as well as timely incentives.

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