10 Ways Declining Brick and Mortar Can Engage Fashion Customers with Disabilities

Declining brick and mortar retailers often overlook fashion customers with disabilities, which means they are also overlooking a lot of money and community building opportunities. Here my 10 suggestions for effectively engaging fashion customers with disabilities.

  1. Feature Diverse Images in brick and mortar advertising campaigns. Customers want to be included in your brand's visual storytelling. It increases brand loyalty and It's all a part of telling an inclusive brand story. As Katie Driscoll, founder of Changing the Face of Beauty says, "When checking the boxes on the diversity list, you must include disabilities". I would like to add, it's also important to see images in stores and malls, like the ones above that I styled featuring Lolo. News flash, people with disabilities are fashion customers.
  2. Train Sales Associates, I offer specific training on how to meet the styling needs of customers with disabilities based on my Disability Fashion Styling System™ . But, there are also exceptional disability marketing consultants that can help you put together focus groups or conduct other research for sales associate training. Sales associates need to understand how to assist clientele with scoliosis, arthritis, spina bifida, tetraplegia, paraplegia etc...
  3. Create Disability-Friendly Merchandising beyond what the ADA (Americans with Disabilities) requires. When I'm shopping with my clients who are wheelchair users it's often a mess getting through aisles, finding wheelchair accessible dressing rooms that are not being used as storage rooms. It's also demeaning for my clients making purchases when the wheelchair accessible portion of the counter is filled with overstock or "go backs", which prohibits them from independently and respectfully making purchases. Enough is Enough with the lack of accessibility in two thousand freakin' eighteen. Don't Apologize Revolutionize™! Radically and fundamentally change the way you're choosing to merchandise brick and mortar stores. And, can a sistah see some mannequins in wheelchairs, please? Kohls use to do this years ago in certain regions of the country.
  4. Expand Your Influence, get to know influencers with disabilities and invite them to PR events and shows and pay them to collaborate. Employment leads to increased self-sufficiency which leads to increased self-efficacy. Also, if you are a financial decision maker in a conglomerate and your company makes billions of dollars, please respect the influencers with disabilities you hire, by paying them the way you would want or expect to be paid. You know just like I do, people with disabilities check tons of boxes on the diversity list and hiring us is great for both the SROI (social return on investment) and the ROI (return on investment).
  5. Be a Sponsor for both charitable and for-profit disability-related brands or events. Today's shoppers are discerning. They can spot a disingenuous attempt to pander a mile away. And since today's shoppers are also serious about supporting brands that support them. Find disability-related businesses that match your aesthetic and mission and build a real relationship.
  6. Know The Numbers for marketing to people with disabilities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau people with disabilities make up one of the largest minority groups in the nation with over 56 million people. And The World Health Organization on Disability states that there are 6 billion people in the world living with disabilities. Once you delve into the numbers and identify the share of the market you'd like to dominate, go forth!
  7. Use Technology to innovate with AI (artificial intelligence) or VR (virtual reality). Take a cue from the prosthetic industry. Creative brands like ALLELES Design Studio, Unyq Armor and Unyq Align have used 3D printing and other technology to reimagine prosthetics, body braces and more.
  8. Incentivize Innovation among employees. You never know what your employees will come up with until you ask. A great example is Target's new Cat & Jack adaptive apparel collection by Target designer Stacey Monsen and her team.
  9. Be a Problem Solver like Amazon. Amazon's new Prime Wardrobe mimics Warby Parker's business model and allows customers to try on clothing before buying it. Amazon is also going head to head with the fashion industry by introducing 8 new clothing lines.  Some people are not happy about this, but it is forcing local retailers to rethink day to day operations which is great. This is an opportunity to pull the "local card". The one thing brick and mortars still have is the local connection. So get busy exploring what problems you can solve for fashion customers in your brick and mortar store.
  10. Accept the Change. Every industry has it's "Naptster" moment. That moment when disruptive technology changes the rules of engagement. Instead of bemoaning the new state of the industry, use this as an opportunity to finally meet the fashion needs of often overlooked, underestimated fashion customers with disabilities. #disabledandstylish

      Photo Credits: Photo Credits: Model: Lolo MUA/Photographer:Lorene Janae Stylist: Stephanie Thomas


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