Morrisons supermarkets in Northumberland are starting a weekly Quieter Hour for autistic shoppers who struggle with music and noise.
The initiative will see the stores dim lights, turn off music, avoid using the tannoy, turn check-out beeps down and reduce the movement of trolleys and baskets.
It begins tomorrow and will run each Saturday from 9am to 10am. There are Morrisons stores in Alnwick, Morpeth, Bedlington, Berwick and Blyth.
Morrisons will also work to improve awareness among colleagues of the issues autistic customers face in store.
Carolyn Gibson, Alnwick store manager, backed the initiative. She said: “Customers will know that they have this time to come into the store when it is quieter. I think it is a really good and positive thing.”
Meanwhile, a post on the Morrisons Berwick 168 Facebook page stated: ‘We are pleased to announce that from Saturday, July 21, we will be having a quieter shopping time for autistic and disabled shoppers.
‘This will be from 9am until 10am every Saturday. There will be no radio or tannoys, the lights will be dimmed, our checkout beeps will be turned down, our telephones will be muted and our children’s rides at the front of store will be switched off.
‘We will be making the store a calmer and quieter environment.’
The Quieter Hour initiative has been created with the support of the National Autistic Society. Many people who are autistic or those with autistic children can find shopping in a supermarket an anxious experience.
Morrisons trialled the scheme in three of its stores – Lincoln, Woking and Gainsborough – before deciding to roll it out across its 493 stores nationwide.
Daniel Cadey, from the National Autistic Society, said: “Around 700,000 people are on the autism spectrum in the UK. This means they see, hear and feel the world differently to other people, often in a more intense way.
“Morrisons Quieter Hour is a step in the right direction for autistic people who find supermarket shopping a real struggle.”