Following the lead of a number of supermarkets, discount retailer Home Bargains in Halifax, has introduced a weekly quiet hour to create a calmer environment for shoppers with autism. The quiet shopping hour takes place every Saturday, between 9:00am to 10:00am across all of its stores and sees the stores’ music turned off and its tannoy set aside, used for urgent announcements only.
The initiative was created in conjunction with The National Autistic Society, the UK’s leading charity for autistic people, which has advised on creating the ideal environment for shoppers with autism. Those who suffer from autism can find loud noises and sudden movements distressing.
Joe Morris, operations director at Home Bargains, said: “We have introduced the Quiet Hour to add a peaceful element to retail therapy. Home Bargains stores can be busy places, which can be potentially overwhelming for people with autism, especially at this time of year. We have created the quieter and calmer environment to enable all of our customers to have an enjoyable and relaxing shopping experience. We will continually assess where we can support each and every one of our 5 million weekly shoppers, whatever their situation.”
Tom Purser, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “We are very pleased to hear that Home Bargains is introducing a quiet hour into its stores to make shopping a little easier for autistic people and their families, having taken part in the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour in October. “We hear from autistic people and their families that shops and other public spaces can be challenging because of bright lights, strong smells and crowds or queues, all of which can cause them to feel overwhelmed. Our research shows that 64 per cent of autistic people avoid the shops and 28 per cent have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. “There are 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their needs aren’t always immediately obvious. We know a basic understanding and small changes like quiet hours could transform the lives of autistic people and their families, allowing them to take part in activities that many people can take for granted. We hope more shops will be inspired by Home Bargains and do their bit to help make sure autistic people and their families have the same opportunities as everyone else.”