If you went into a Sobeys store at the right time on the right day, you’d notice something very odd.
You’d notice how quiet it is.
No public announcements. No scanner sounds. No carts being noisily collected. The lights are dim. It’s eerily peaceful and relaxing.
For some people, the quiet is a nice change from the regular loud and bright experience of shopping. But for other people, this is the only time they ever get to experience shopping. For some people on the autism spectrum, the regular noise and lights are far too overwhelming for them to ever step foot in a store. You can get a tiny feel for what that experience is like in the video, Carly’s Café – Experience Autism Through Carly’s Eyes. The quiet environment that Sobeys is offering is their one opportunity to take part in a basic activity that most people do without thinking.
In partnership with autism Nova Scotia, Sobeys originally launched their Sensory Friendly Shopping program in several east coast Canada locations. After a lot of very positive feedback from their targeted audience, as well as many other people, they announced that the program will soon expand across Canada.
Safeway has also begun to implement sensory friendly shopping times, as has No Frills which has gone so far as to ask their employees not to wear scents during that time. Both Safeway and No Frills have also received very positive feedback from their customers and intend to expand their programs.
But the quiet doesn’t stop there. Where else is it quiet?
Theatres like AMC and Cineplex are also screening movies with lower volumes and dimmed lighting which may be more amenable to people on the Autism spectrum.
However, the movie theatres have expanded their target audience further. In some cases, they are also offering change tables, bottle warmers, and stroller parking making it easier for caregivers of babies and toddlers to enjoy movies in the theatre. Now moms, grandpas, aunts, and nephews can bring baby to the theatre without worrying about harming their hearing or annoying the rest of the theatre crowd with the unpredictability of a young one. At these theatres, everyone has informally agreed to the social contract that someone, maybe even their own child, might start screaming or running around at any moment – and that’s okay.
Creating a quiet sensory experience for people on the spectrum or people with babies is an acknowledgment that everyone is different, and that it is possible and appropriate to create retail and service environments where everyone can enjoy an experience. It’s also a reminder of the philosophy that what benefits group of people might actually benefit other larger groups of people.
Sensory friendly supermarkets and movie theatres benefit groups of people who need calm surroundings. For example, around 2% of Canadians fall on the Autism Spectrum, around 2% of Canadians have Alzheimer’s or dementia, about 5% of Canadians deal with anxiety, and around 7% of Canadians experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Having a quiet place for them to shop is an overt display of and respect for inclusion.
Knowing who your consumer is means knowing all of your consumers, not just the majority of people who are able to enjoy your products and services in the same way that you do. And, accommodating for those unique needs means you’ve created opportunities to surprise and delight new, unknown target audiences.
Ready to learn more? Learn how we helped Saint Elizabeth gain a stronger understanding of their target audience and launch a meaningful new brand for healthcare caregivers. Or, download our Triple C™ framework for a template that will help you develop strategies and tactics that are beneficial for the consumer, the customer, and the company.
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