Gary Grant, Founder and Chairman of The Entertainer, the fastest-growing, family-owned high street toy retailer in the UK, is calling on British retailers and shopping centres to offer improved in-store support to autistic shoppers.
Saturday, October 6 is the start of The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour, an initiative sponsored by The Entertainer and designed to show businesses the simple steps they can take to improve the shopping experience for their autistic customers.
The Entertainer joined 5,000 retail outlets that supported The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour in 2017 and successfully implemented its own Quiet Hour initiative earlier this year, which now sees every one of its stores turn off its music and take active steps to minimise all noise, including toy demonstrations, and where possible dim the lights, for the first hour of trading every Saturday and during the school holidays.
Following positive customer feedback and seeing the huge impact such a small change made to its autistic shoppers, The Entertainer came on board as the official sponsor for Autism Hour 2018, to raise awareness and encourage other retailers to make similar efforts to provide a more comfortable shopping experience for Autistic shoppers and their families.
Grant is now calling on all retailers – regardless of size – to support Autism Hour and consider regular adaptations to their store environments to accommodate those shoppers that require a calmer shopping experience.
He commented: “I’m delighted to hear that 10,000 retail outlets will participate in Autism Hour this year but there is more that can be done to support our Autistic shoppers and their families.
"We have a responsibility as retailers to create a more comfortable shopping environment for those with sensory needs. Autism Hour is a great time for retailers to see how simple these changes can be to implement and how significant the impact is for Autistic shoppers and their families. So, I’m calling on other retailers to support Autism Hour and to look at making this a regular commitment by introducing a Quiet Hour into the normal weekly cycle of retail, as we have done with our weekly Quiet Hour”.
For vlogger, author and podcaster, Kevin Chapman, it can be challenging shopping with his 14 year old autistic son, Andy.
“Shopping is a real challenge for our family – in fact, we didn’t take our son, Andy, shopping at all for almost 2 years after an incident when he got really distressed, took off his clothes and wouldn’t move from the floor.
"These days, he finds shopping a little easier, but we have to plan any trips with Andy in advance – he needs to know where we’re going, what we’re going for, and he counts down the amount of things we put in the trolley.
For us, Autism Hour is really great as it allows us to go out as a family together. We recently had a trip to our local The Entertainer store which runs a Quiet Hour every Saturday for the first hour of opening and it was noticeable how much easier Andy found the experience than a usual shopping trip.
"He walked up and down every aisle of the shop, something he never does and after we paid for his toys he headed back into the shop to find his mum and sister - he’d normally wait outside for them in situations like this.
"The biggest thing for our family though is how events like this raise awareness amongst the staff and other customers. The staff member who served us was very friendly and helpful to Andy, which is a huge part of making him feel more comfortable when he’s away from home.”
The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour runs from Saturday 6 October to Saturday 13 October. Find out more about the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour and how to get involved by visiting: www.autism.org.uk/AutismHour