In order to make Christmas shopping more accessible, The Entertainer has now introduced a Christmas Quiet Hour, an initiative that will take place every day in its 171 stores across the country, in order to facilitate a calmer shopping environment for people with autism.
With the busy Christmas shopping season now upon us, the UK family-owned toy shop is aiming to offer support to those who find the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping an uncomfortable experience.
Store staff have undertaken additional training to help them support customers who may be overwhelmed by the sensory overload that Christmas shopping can be for many. While other retailers will be turning up the Christmas carols and adding flashing lights, The Entertainer will be turning off its Christmas songs and dimming the lights wherever possible for an hour a day.
Research from the National Autistic Society found that 50 per cent of autistic people and their families sometimes avoid going out because of concern about people’s reaction to their autism and that sadly over a quarter (28 per cent) have been asked to leave a public space because of behaviours related to their autism.
Gary Grant, founder and executive chairman of The Entertainer, said: “We all know that shopping during the festive season can be stressful as shops turn up the music and bring as much festive cheer and theatre to the store to entice shoppers in, which is great but it’s not for everyone.
“So this year we’re doing something very different – for the first hours’ trading each day there will be no music playing, our lights will be dimmed wherever possible and our stores will be made to feel calmer for our Christmas Quiet Hour. This is to show our continued support for autistic people and their families and for those who find shopping during the festive season stressful and overwhelming. We hope that it helps make Christmas shopping enjoyable for everyone.”
Tom Purser, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, added: “We are delighted that our Autism Hour sponsor The Entertainer is introducing Christmas Quiet Hours to make shopping a little easier for autistic people and their families at one of the busiest times of the year.
“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 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 many people can take for granted.
“We hope more shops will be inspired by The Entertainer and do their bit to help make sure autistic people and their families have the same opportunities as everyone else. If you would like to know more about autism visit autism.org.uk.”
The Entertainer’s Christmas Quiet Hour will be in operation for the first hour of trading at each store from Monday, December 2 to Tuesday, December 31. Opening hours vary so to find out local opening hours please visit: https://www.thetoyshop.com/store-finder.