Sensory-sensitive supermarket: Why one Ontario store is turning off its lights
Grocery shopping is a universal experience. No matter where you live and what store you shop at, you’re familiar with the sights and sounds of the supermarket.
For some people, though, constant music and omnipresent lighting can be difficult to handle. People who are on the autism spectrum or have suffered brain injuries are among those who have issues with this sort of sensory overload.
One Ontario grocery store owner is being lauded for finding a way to make his store more welcoming for people with sensory sensitivities.
Mark Harrison held his first sensory-friendly shopping experience last week, following a suggestion from an employee at his No Frills store in Arnprior, Ont.
“We turned off some of the lights. We turned off the music, eliminated pages over the PA system and asked customers and employees to refrain from wearing strong scents,” Harrison told CTV’s Your Morning Monday.
Although Harrison had never considered the idea before his employee brought it up, he wasn’t a hard sell. In fact, he says it’s easy to understand how his store could contribute to sensory overload, in part because he has two young sons on the autism spectrum.
“Shopping, they actually seem to do OK – but there [are] definitely some sounds and things like that that can really get to them,” he said.
Harrison says he heard plenty of positive comments about the experience from shoppers and employees. The general impression he received was that shoppers liked the relative peace and quiet, and felt less rushed than they normally do.
“I think they just really enjoyed the calmer experience,” he said.
There was also a significant positive reaction on Facebook, where Harrison had publicized his sensory-friendly supermarket.
“Thank you so much for making this opportunity for my daughter and I to have a better shopping experience,” wrote Heather Adkins.
The sensory-friendly shopping experience was enough of a hit that Harrison has decided to hold it twice this week – adding an evening session for people who are unable to make it to his store in the morning. Other No Frills franchisees have expressed interest in picking up the program themselves, Harrison said.