Monday 2nd October saw two of the Co-op’s Grande Marche stores take part in a ‘quiet hour’ as part of a nationwide trial. The hope is that these ‘quiet hours’ will help make shopping a more relaxing and enjoyable experience for those on the spectrum.

We received some lovely feedback from an individual with autism who visited the St Martins store,  here you can read an account of their visit;

When I arrived at the Co-op that afternoon to meet Sheila, the Store Manager came to greet us along with one of the ladies who had been in the training session.

Sheila and I walked through the store to see the adjustments being made, and although I’d needed my headphones to begin with, I was now able to remove them as I began to relax with each thing that changed.

By this point, the staff had turned off the music, TV screens and display lights in the fridges. Originally they were unsure as to whether they would be able to silence the self-checkout; however, a quick call to a Jersey store for further instruction meant they were able to turn off the voice. It was lovely that the store was willing to ‘go the extra mile’.

Once I started to do my shopping, I found it much easier to concentrate and locate items I needed. The aisles had been cleared of obstructions, making it easier to move about and eased the visual confusion. Surprisingly I found myself happily browsing the shelves rather than hurrying around in a desperate bid to get my shopping done and leave as fast as possible.

At one point a child began to cry, something that would usually cause my anxiety to rise, but as I wasn’t dealing with the other sensory overload, I was able to tolerate this.

My anxiety and stress levels are usually very high when I get to a shop, and only increase the longer I stay there, one person dropping something or shouting is enough for me to reach crisis point and leave. With the amendments that the Co-op made, my anxiety level stayed at a manageable level throughout.

This was one of the most relaxing shopping experiences I have had in a long time, and although I kept my headphones with me just in case, I didn’t need to use them, which is a first since I got them 3 or 4 years ago. In fact, I found myself enjoying it so much that I ended up enjoying a more leisurely shop than normal, and wished I’d started earlier to make the most of the ‘quiet hour’.

Although the staff member who served me handed me my change rather than placing it down on the counter, they did so in a way that I was comfortable with; which goes to show that the training provided by Autism Guernsey made a difference.

On my way out the store, I stopped to say thank you to the store manager and provide some initial feedback on my experience. The fact that I even thought about doing this, walking back past queues of people and tills, shows how calm I was.

Ordinarily, a trip to the shops would leave me feeling extremely anxious and worn out well into the evening, however being able to peacefully walk around the shop meant that I remained calm for the rest of the day which is a complete contrast to normal.

I have experienced what a huge difference relatively small changes can make. Each adjustment made in the shop was accumulative, and it all added up to a great experience for me. I’m sure that if I knew my future shopping experiences could be like this, I would arrive at the store feeling much less anxious knowing I could enjoy shopping in a peaceful and relatively stress-free environment.

I was hugely impressed by the willingness of everyone at the Co-op to engage with this initiative, explore ideas for what changes would help those on the spectrum and subsequently how they could be achieved.

I feel privileged to have been able to enjoy the first of what I hope will be many more Quiet Hours at the Co-Op. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this happen.