Businesses could lose sales if not disability-friendly, SA’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner warns

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shoe retail
A retail store worker places shoes on shelves in a window displaying a sales sign in central Sydney, Australia, March 6, 2017. Reuters/Steven Saphore

Businesses could miss out on sales for not paying much attention to disabled customers, with over 18.5 percent of the population living with a disability, according to South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner. Local retailers and businesses are encouraged to embrace diversity as a marketing opportunity.

Diversity and inclusion were once seen as acts of charity. But both must be viewed in a different way for hospitality businesses and Christmas retailers to ensure they do not miss out on sales.

Commissioner Niki Vincent told Sunday Mail that businesses in SA were throwing away an opportunity in the lead-up to the holidays. She cited a report with Deloitte Australia, which finds that businesses that are not disability-friendly could be missing out on up to one in every three sales. Some potential customers leave with without offering feedback about the issue.

Disability discrimination is felt more this year. According to Vincent, they have seen an over 40 percent increase in the number of complaints in SA around treating customers with disability, including those from people who could not easily participate in normal retail experiences, or those who could not access premises while doing groceries.

Several Australian retailers are already stepping out their game to stay ahead of Amazon. Retailers like JB Hi-Fi are launching same-day deliveries. Meanwhile, Woolworths has announced plans to trial one-hour deliveries.

Consumers could also expect Christmas shopping to be cheaper this year, making Australian shoppers the real winner of Amazon’s arrival. The retail giant could ignite a price war if it chooses to “undercut Harvey Norman.” Founder Gerry Harvey said his retail chain could possibly match prices with Amazon if they launch “competitive” prices, reports. But it would be a different thing “if they come out and do bait advertising.”

But Adelaide Event Management human resources general manager Simon Hockridge encourages businesses to do more. He believes that providing a more inclusive environment boosts results, The Advertiser reports. It could also deliver a positive impact on retaining customers and staff.

As for labour market outcomes for people with disability, employment rates of people with disability or health problems were at 40 percent, according to a 2010 report. Meanwhile, 15 percent of children with disability are educated in segregated “special” schools, The Conversation notes.

Adelaide Event Management employs workers with disabilities at high-profile venues. These include Adelaide Convention Centre, Coopers Stadium and the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.