October 3, 2019 / Experience

Valuing Diversity

Inclusivity is calling for every individual to be heard, represented and understood. Creating a retail atmosphere that breeds positivity and embodies diversity should be a fluid transition of touchpoints, aesthetics and functions that are accessible to all.

From making sure there are models included with diverse cultures, sizes and ages, now comes the next step; making spaces that are easily and capably functional for those with disabilities. Pop-culture is starting to note how stores are largely unsuited for those with mobility needs, with one of Queer Eyes latest episodes dubbed ‘Disabled, but not really’. Stores should be embracing this change visibly – not as a PR stunt but to address functional elements that will facilitate accessible designs for all.

Starting with implementing inclusivity in company culture, Sainsbury’s have been long-time supporters of helping nurture inclusivity. Their most recent initiative has been to have 150 days of inclusive community building. During this time staff were encouraged to learn British Sign Language. Over 100 employees took part in BSL lessons and screens in the store displayed how to sign different foods.

Investing in creating a community culture that builds understanding, Lego is currently testing bricks that use braille letters and numbers to help children learn to read while playing. Conceived by Lego’s own senior art director who is partially blind, the playful approach “has been hugely inspirational and reminded me that the only limitations I will meet in life are those I create in my mind”.

The beauty world is also reacting to the need for products that can be used by everyone. UK brand Grace Beauty makes beauty products and add ons that can be applied by people with disabilities. The affordable accessories include a mascara Safe Grip that is flexible and “ensures better control for all kinds of users”. Encouraging people to join the community, the brand invites people to give accurate feedback in order to improve their products.

Adaptive design is also making its way into the fashion industry, as people with disabilities and chronic disease represent an underserved market that could reach $288.7 billion globally this year, according to a report from Coresight Research. Brands like Nike are investing in apparel like self-lacing shoes and Tommy Hilfiger’s adaptive 2018 adaptive clothing line, which features applications like magnetic buttons and adjustable length for pant-legs.

Brands like Marks & Spencer have had schemes for helping employ people with disability, with 35% of their workforce citing one. However, in a retail space, there is a lot of room for growth to help accommodate and support individuals. Creating larger isles, bigger fitting rooms with more chairs and even lowering checkouts, there is a way to go before retails stores truly accommodate and support disability.

Key Insights

  • Consumers are looking at brands to be authentically and positively affecting culture. More than just inclusion, brands should be diversifying social norms and forming diverse communities.
  • Go beyond inclusion. Brands should consider how to make customers feel valued and supported in the retail environment.
  • Brands should be consciously evolving the environment to meet the changing needs of consumers in all aspects of their offering – marketing, online and in-store.

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