Three Sainsbury’s stores in Liverpool are trialling an autism friendly initiative, helping Liverpool achieve its goal of being the first autism friendly city in the UK.
Colleagues at the three stores taking part in the trial have received training from community enterprise Autism Adventures on the symptoms of autism and what can make a supermarket visit stressful for children with autism, as well as practical tips to help. They have also spent time with a child with autism to learn from them directly.
Sainsbury’s will use the trial to learn from parents of children with autism what would give them the best possible experience. Each store has activity bags available upon request, designed in partnership with a local autism charity. Parents are able to request a number of store modifications when they begin their shopping trip, from turning off the tannoy to opening ‘priority’ checkouts should queuing be particularly difficult for their child. Parents can also request music in the café to be turned off and can use the Assisted Shopping service. The service, available to customers in all stores at any time, provides colleague assistance to those who find shopping difficult – from colleagues pushing a customer’s trolley to packing their bags and taking it to the car.
Natalie Dunn, Sainsbury’s Head of Customer Experience, said: “We want all of our customers to have a great shopping experience in our stores. There are many aspects of a visit to the supermarket which can be stressful for parents of children with autism, so we are trialling ways in which we can make their lives easier. We’ve invested in bespoke training for our colleagues in the area, all of whom are keen to put their learnings into practice and make a positive difference to our customers’ lives. We are excited to hear feedback from parents of children with autism and hope that the learnings from this trial will enable us to make a difference to customers across the UK.”
Julie Simpson, founder of Autism Adventures and mother of a child with autism, said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see Sainsbury’s trialling an autism-friendly approach in its stores, at any time of day. As a parent of a child with autism, it’s fantastic to have the ability to request for modifications to be made as soon as I enter the store, meaning a calmer and hopefully stress-free shopping trip for me and my son. All of the Sainsbury’s colleagues I have met have been so enthusiastic about the trial and it’s great to be able to work together to help parents like me, wherever and whenever they shop.”
In 2014, Sainsbury’s introduced trolleys for older disabled children, which many parents of children with autism find helpful. The retailer is also in the process of moving from fluorescent lighting to energy-efficient LED lighting in its stores, which will be beneficial to children with autism who can be affected by bright, fluorescent lighting. All three stores in the trial have the trolleys designed for disabled children as well as LED lighting.
The trial is taking place at Sainsbury’s Rice Lane, Sainsbury’s Woolton and Sainsbury’s East Prescot Road. Customers are encouraged to feed back their experiences to Sainsbury’s, which will review the results of trial at the end of April.