Debenhams breaks new ground with launch of personal shopper service for blind and partially sighted

Debenhams today (22nd November 2011) became the first major retailer on the British high street to offer a tailored shopping service for blind and partially sighted customers.


In designing the much needed service, Debenhams worked with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to identify the main obstacles faced by both the customer and personal shopper whilst trying to shop in store.


From a customer perspective, these included time, brand and social and physical barriers.  For the personal shopper it was the difficultly in broaching the subject of sight loss with the customer, and how to describe the key features of the garment.


Debenhams personal shoppers have undergone training on how to overcome these barriers, including extensive training on the experience the customer feels, using glasses which imitate various levels of sight loss that include; cataracts and  macular degeneration.


The personal shoppers have been carefully trained in methods such as how to explain the touch and feel of sequins and embellishment, how to describe heel height and style, the difference in look, touch and function of different fastening methods and how to communicate sensitively yet effectively to the customer.


Working with the RNIB in its creation and development, the service will be available in all 167 Debenhams stores across the UK and Ireland.


The innovative service comes as a result of the subject being thrust into the media by hit TV show, How to Look Good Naked, which featured blind Di Cram undergo a style makeover with stylist Gok Wan back in 2010.


This pioneering move by Debenhams is the latest in a line of diversity campaigns, which has seen disabled models used in national window campaigns, a ban on airbrushing in photography and the use of models in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.


Said Soleta Oliver, Debenhams Commercial Manager for Store Services: “We are passionate about diversity atDebenhams, and wanted to create something inclusive yet fabulous.”


“The service acts to make shopping an accessible and enjoyable experience for every single person that comes into our stores.”


“Working with RNIB together with blind and partially sighted consumers has been invaluable. They have been instrumental in this service, and have contributed to the shape and style of how the appointments will run.”


Lesley-Anne Alexander, Chief Executive of RNIB added: “Our own research shows that 76% of blind and partially sighted people find shopping to be difficult or impossible, so clearly there is a desperate need for this service.


“We’re delighted that Debenhams is the first retailer to offer a service for blind and partially sighted shoppers, and hope that this urges other retailers to follow suit.”


The service is now available in every single Debenhams store.


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