As a small business owner my aim is to make as many sales as possible to become successful. I moved into a medium-sized outlet in town and have sold vintage clothes and accessories for the past three years. My business started online so the learning curve has been extreme, but so far things have mulled over nicely even though we are experiencing a global recession.
My first major investment into my shop came when I needed to make some improvements to the fit out and make some internal repairs. It was about a year and a half since I had opened and from then I had simply made do with what was already there simply to save money. Sadly though this couldn’t continue. There was a leak in the roof that had damaged some stock on a very rainy weekend. I had also spoken to several customers and they had informed me that the steps out the front were not ideal for ease of access.
In business it is important to listen to your customers. I decided that I wanted to remove the steps and replace them with a small ramp if possible. I needed some expert advice on how to go about this and see if I needed to ask for planning permission. It was very daunting for me to venture into repairs and improvements. I had no experience on what to expect and until that point I had not really heard of the Equality Act 2010. After investigating improving access online I soon discovered that it was an important issue that I had to get sorted out.
Finding Expert Help was a Necessary Move
I contacted a consultant who was happy to come to my premises and do a simple audit for me. They were very friendly and knowledgeable and assisted me in working out the logistics for a ramp to ease access. They informed me of the options that were available to me and created a report that I then used with the builders to create a design that would be accepted. We decided to put in a ramp and a rail to replace the steps out the front. I also decided to get a new door that was automatic so no one had to pull or push it when they wanted to enter or exit.
Altered the Interiors
Inside I replaced the fittings and that freed up a lot of space for people who wanted to browse the goods. I also made changes to the dressing rooms out the back and made sure one was a larger size so that people could try on things a lot easier if they used a walking frame. The other change I made was to the actual counter where people pay. As it was an older store, the counter was very tall and I wanted to make it smaller. We had a lot of younger customers and they often found it hard to see over the top, so that was the main reason behind the change. The consultant also pointed out that people who used wheelchairs would also find the counter to be too tall, something I hadn’t thought about as I hadn’t had anyone in a wheelchair come into the shop before. Again it was pointed out that this was probably due to the steps and the inability of anyone getting hold of me to signal for help.
I was allowed to make the necessary changes and all the building work went on without a hitch. At the end of it all my shop looked incredible. The whole place seemed brighter and more inviting. Since the improvements I have seen a great increase in footfall with all sorts of new customers coming, and more importantly returning often. The work that I put into the space has paid off already and it just goes to show how many people were excluded before. I just wish that I had done something sooner!
If you are concerned about the accessibility of your business an access audit will show you what needs improving and how to go about it.