Penneys have partnered with AsIAm to create measures to make shopping in their 36 Irish stores more inclusive.
Fast fashion retailer, Penneys is set to introduce autism-friendly shopping experiences to its 36 stores nationwide. The company will also add sensory-friendly shopping hours for autistic people and their friends and families. The new initiative has been developed in partnership with AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity.
The new initiative, beginning November 14th, will take place every Sunday for the first hour the shop is open. The Sensory Friendly Shopping Hour will help autistic people, and those close to them, visit the store with measures ensuring a calmer and more inclusive shopping experience.
Noise reduction measures will take place across the store during this time such as silencing tills, and muting in-store music. Additional assistance and support will be provided by in-store ‘Champions’ who have received specialised training from AsIAm.
For those who do not wish to get up at the crack of dawn to shop, they can access the special digital support materials on the website. This will ensure that shopping is more accessible for autistic people outside of the Sensory Friendly Shopping Hour.
Customers can visit the relevant store page and, through visual and audio aids, prepare themselves for the sights and sounds they may experience while in store that may cause sensory overload. It also includes a store map and visual guide called My Trip to Penneys to prepare for their visit and help identify how they can navigate through the store when they arrive. Customers will also be able to easily access these online supports through QR codes placed in-store.
AsIAm has also conducted its own audits of the 36 stores, highlighting areas of high sensory input and listed recommendations to create a more comfortable shopping experience for autistic people during all trading hours.
Adam Harris, founder and CEO of AsIAm, said, “Shopping and the retail environment can be an incredibly overwhelming experience for autistic people and their families, due to crowded environments and the sensory overload from noises. We are delighted in AsIAm to have partnered with Penneys to make shopping more accessible for our community. Outside of the weekly sensory-friendly shopping hour, we wanted to ensure that meaningful accommodations were in place all of the time that will enable an autistic person or their family to comfortably navigate the shopping environment, as well as training all Penneys staff in understanding autism. We are very excited to start this journey and to continue to work together in our commitment to making shopping as inclusive as possible.”
To complete the shake up, Penneys employees will receive training supported by AsIAm, delivered through a custom-built autism awareness e-learning module.