Store aims to make shopping more autism-friendly

The Entertainer store in the Antonine Shopping Centre is holding a autism-friendly shopping session in October.
The Entertainer store in the Antonine Shopping Centre is holding a autism-friendly shopping session in October.

A Cumbernauld shop is joining businesses across the country in holding an Autism Hour for its customers next month.

The Entertainer has joined up with the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour to organise the event during the second week of October.

Following the successful introduction of its own Quiet Hour initiative earlier this year, the company has pledged to support the campaign at its Antonine Shopping Centre store, joining post offices, supermarkets, coffee shops and high street retailers who will be taking simple steps to help create a more autism-friendly environment.

This involves taking steps including turning down music, dimming bright lights, and sharing information about autism. More than 5,000 shops and businesses took part in last year’s inaugural Autism Hour, including household names like Clarks, Superdrug and Pets at Home. The National Autistic Society wants this year’s Autism Hour to be even bigger and is encouraging more shops and businesses to get involved.

There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, as well as three million family members and carers. Being autistic means seeing, hearing and feeling the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and can struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which can make busy public places, like shops, overwhelming.

Like anyone else, autistic people and their families want to have the option of going to shops, whether to pick up the weekly shopping, buy a coffee or browse with a friend. Yet National Autistic Society surveys suggest that 64 per cent of autistic people avoid shops. And 28 per cent of autistic people have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated for their autism.

Mark Lever, National Autistic Society chief executive, said: “It’s wonderful to see so many well-known high street retailers already signed up – and ready to make the world a more autism friendly place. Thank you to The Entertainer for becoming our sponsor for Autism Hour 2018.

“Autistic people represent a huge part of our society – around 1 in 100 people in the UK. They and their families want to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else. But many find the crowds, noise and unpredictability of our high streets completely overwhelming and end up avoiding them altogether.

“Over 5,000 shops and businesses were involved in the first ever Autism Hour last year, and we want this year to be even bigger. If you’d like to be involved, please find out more on autism.org.uk.”

Autism Hours are designed to show businesses the simple steps they can take to improve the shopping experience for their autistic customers. We hope that, after participating, many more of them will follow The Entertainer’s example and introduce permanent changes to make their business more autism friendly, including through working towards our Autism Friendly Award.

Gary Grant, Founder and Chairman of The Entertainer, added: “We always strive to make our stores a happy place for people to visit and so it is imperative that we adapt our in-store environment to create a more comfortable space for autistic people. The Entertainer is somewhere for children to explore their imagination and become inspired by all of the toys available and so we hope by supporting Autism Hour in addition to running our own Quiet Hour initiative, more families will feel confident when it comes to shopping with us.”

Further information about the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour and how to get involved can be found at www.autism.org.uk/AutismHour