Guest post from Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) CEO James Lowman
Convenience stores operate at the heart of villages, towns and cities across the UK and provide access to essential products and services as well as acting as a social hub to reduce loneliness in their local areas. One of the things that our sector is most proud of is offering our communities good customer service experiences.
Over the course of the pandemic, we saw convenience retailers go above and beyond to adapt the day-to-day running of their stores to ensure that they could continue to feed their customers, from offering home deliveries to widening aisles to comply with social distancing.
New guidance for the convenience sector
Recently, we launched our new Everyone Welcome Guide, which has been developed in consultation with the Alzheimer’s Society, Business Disability Forum, Sense, Age UK, and National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise and we’re delighted to have been able to work with these organisations to produce a resource for retailers on how to provide excellent customer service for all customers including the millions of customers with disabilities and different needs.
We are proud to have developed this new guidance which will help retailers to make their stores more accessible and as a result have a positive and lasting impact on their communities by ensuring that everyone is welcome.
The guide provides retailers with helpful and practical tips on how they can make their store accessible for everyone. When thinking about improving the accessibility of your store, there are a number of steps that you can take, these might be physical changes such as installing ramps and ensuring that aisles are free of obstacles or behavioural changes such as changing the way that you communicate with customers and ensuring that colleagues are on hand to provide customers with assistance if they should need it.
Making adjustments in your store can benefit your customers and colleagues and many of the tips outlined in this guide do not require any investment but can still have a huge impact in improving your customers’ experience.
Local shops and the pandemic
Convenience retailers are extraordinarily talented in their ability to adapt and I am confident that the retailers in our sector will be able to take the information from this guide and apply it in their business and demonstrate that everyone truly is welcome in our sector.
The guide was launched during a webinar which featured a panel session chaired by Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) Chief Executive James Lowman and a discussion with Parma Sira (Small Business Disability Adviser, Business Disability Forum), Rachel Brown (Corporate Partnerships Manager, Sense) and independent retailer Amy Sohal.
James has been ACS Chief Executive since November 2006. He has led ACS’ political and media activity, driven a unique research programme that informs ACS’ policy work, launched an industry-leading assured advice scheme in partnership with Bucks & Surrey Trading Standards, created a new and unique events programme, and increased membership and engagement from all parts of the industry.