Marks & Spencer has today become the first UK retailer to introduce the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme lanyards into all of its owned UK stores, alongside giving all 80,000 colleagues clear information on what the lanyards mean and how to serve customers who wear them.
In addition to all UK stores, the lanyards will be available for customers to request from M&S’s customer service centre in Chester.
The introduction of the sunflower lanyards is part of M&S’s ambition to be the most accessible retailer, both in-store and online, and comes one year after M&S became the first retailer to launch daywear for children with disabilities and two years after it became the first retailer to publish AccessAble Guides for every store.
The sunflower lanyard scheme helps people with hidden disabilities which aren’t always obvious – such as autism, dementia and visual or hearing impairments. When a customer optionally wears a lanyard it’s a discreet signal to store colleagues that they may need a little extra support when shopping.
M&S is introducing the scheme after it was suggested by several colleagues and the retailer is proud to be building on the great work that’s already been done by other companies, particularly other grocery retailers and airports.
Rob Rankin, Store Manager of M&S Merthyr Tydfil, was one of the colleagues who suggested introducing the lanyards. He said, “We’ve had some great feedback from customers and our local community about the work we’ve done in kidswear to offer adapted clothing for children with disabilities, and we’ve carried out lots of in-store training to better help our customers with dementia.
'I thought it would be fantastic to build on all this work and demonstrate how inclusive we aspire to be by signing up to the sunflower lanyard scheme and supporting those with hidden disabilities. I know it will mean a lot to customers in my store – especially as we head towards the most exciting, but what can be the most stressful time of year for shopping – Christmas.”
Sacha Berendiji, M&S’s Retail, Operations & Property Director, said, “As we work hard to transform M&S we remain committed to being the UK’s most accessible retailer for customers – however, wherever and whenever they want to shop – it all matters - from the parking we provide, to the service with a smile we give in store, to the accessibility of our website.
'The sunflower lanyard initiative is one of several collaborative initiatives we’re proud to take part in and we hope to encourage more retailers and services on the High Street to join up and help the scheme grow.”
Alongside launching the sunflower lanyard, this week M&S is introducing several helpful guides for colleagues into its stores - including information on how to implement sensory friendly hours and deaf awareness training which contains several key phrases in British Sign Language. All this comes as M&S gears up to support Purple Tuesday for the second year in a row.