The Thrifty Foods store in Central Saanich plans to operate a “Sensory Friendly” hour, at least once a week, starting mid May.
During the hour, lights will be dimmed by 50 per cent, intercom calls will be stopped and even check-out beeps switched off. A music-free, ethereal shopping experience is planned, something already generating excitement online, especially among people with sensory sensitivities, like autism.
A store in Tsawwassen recently started offering bi-weekly Sensory Friendly hours and reported a huge interest in the idea, with a Facebook post advertising it being rapidly shared over 4,000 times.
Thrifty Foods said there has been a great response from customers and the community. A spokesperson said it was a “grassroots” idea and was being driven by individual store managers and not as a general rollout by central office.
Each store has the freedom to adjust the hour as they see fit, with there already being some interest in expanding the initiative to offer more Sensory Friendly hours. In light of the positive feedback, some staff have suggested also reducing noise from the regular shopping experience.
It is understood that individual stores’ staff are heavily involved in the pilot scheme, interacting with community groups, like Autism BC, and making arrangements for customers, such as greeting them at the door and putting up extra signage.
The Central Saanich store, at 7860 Wallace Drive, is expected to start operating at least one Sensory Friendly hour a week, in the next two to three weeks.