Countdown sets new standards

17 May, 2019 by
FMCG Business
Minister for Disability Issues, Honourable Carmel Sepuloni and Paul Vincent - Countdown Hawera Store Manager.

Countdown Hawera has re-opened its doors this month as the country’s first ‘Be. Accessible’ accredited supermarket, after a significant refurbishment put mobility and accessibility at the heart of the store’s redesign.

In opening the store, Minister for Disability Issues, Honourable Carmel Sepuloni, says it is great to see that this store is accessible and inclusive for customers and staff members with disabilities.


“This store shows what disabled people can expect in their communities in terms of accessibility. I congratulate Countdown and look forward to seeing other examples like this appearing across New Zealand,” says Minister Sepuloni.

Changes across the store include:

* A visual alarm system for emergencies and an EVAC chair for wheelchairs at the emergency exit

* Contrasting colours for doors and reduced natural light in the entry area to avoid glare for visually impaired customers

* Aisles have been designed to provide space for wheelchairs, mobility scooters and prams

* Team areas have been designed to cater for a range of mobility needs

* Wider mobility car parks which are clearly marked in blue for customers

* A safe and easy path to the store entrance from mobility car parks

* Dedicated mobility scooter parking

* Two mobility scooters owned by the store, which can be loaned to customers to use while shopping

* A designated drop-off zone for taxis and vans

* Parking for parents with prams

* Clearly marked pedestrian paths through the car park.

* The store will also be holding Quiet Hours once the team and customers have settled in, designed to support a low-sensory shopping experience, beneficial to people with Autism in particular.

Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability, says supermarkets are by nature busy places, and for customers with mobility needs navigating their way through a store can sometimes be challenging.

“Sometimes the smallest changes can make a huge difference, like light switches that aren’t too high to reach if you’re in a wheelchair or mobility scooter, or a fire alarm that flashes lights instead of just a siren so that hearing impaired customers know they need to exit. It’s really important to us that all New Zealanders feel welcome when they shop with us, and we’re proud to have worked alongside Be. Accessible to help guide us to make our Hawera store more user-friendly. We’ll now be taking these learnings to our future store designs,” says Kiri Hannifin.

Neville Pulman, from Be. Accessible says Countdown Hawera had to meet a wide range of requirements to gain accreditation. Great thinking and design works for everybody, the Countdown team have attended to those needs and opportunities with care, innovation and a result that sets new standards.

Countdown’s Dunedin stores first to test mobility car park app

Meanwhile, Countdown’s Dunedin stores are trialling CCS Disability Action’s Access Aware app, designed to report the misuse of mobility car parks in real time and help keep mobility parks free for when people need them most.

Countdown is also revamping its mobility car parks across the country with new blue, non-slip paint as well as additional space between car parks to accommodate wheelchair and mobility van access.

The Access Aware app enables passers-by to upload a photo of any car parked in a mobility car park which isn’t displaying a valid permit. The app will then alert the relevant store team, who will relay a message over the store’s PA politely asking for the car to be moved to another car park.

Countdown is trialling the app for three months in its four Dunedin stores: Dunedin Central, Dunedin South, Mailer Street and Andersons Bay. The trial will look at customer and team feedback, as well as the number of reports received, so that Countdown can consider rolling out the technology across other stores.