money & Banking

Tue, 11 Sep, 2018Basmah Qazi

The shopping initiative Coles has just introduced to 173 stores

The shopping initiative Coles has just introduced to 173 stores

Coles will be expanding its Quiet Hour initiative to 173 stores from today, where they will dim the lights, turn down the music and reduce in-store distractions.

The supermarket giant said that they want to provide an autism-friendly shopping environment which is why they will be adding an additional 103 stores nationwide in order to give a “more inclusive environment for all customers".

Receiving an influx of support from parents of autistic children, Quiet Hour was first introduced in August last year and now will be put in place in 56 stores in New South Wales, 27 in Queensland and 20 in Western Australia – every Tuesday from 10:30 am to 11:30 am.

“It’s been very positive,” said Sarah Miller, a mother of two autistic children, Cameron and Kevin.

“Shopping is one of those life skills that as a parent I need to teach my boys, not just actually going to the shops but making healthy choices, spending money, going through the cash register. With this, I’m able to take a bit more time.”

Ms Miller said that Kevin, 6, would get “very upset” and “worked up, particularly in busy environments with lots of lights and things going on". 

"The stigma of shopping with kids on the spectrum is pretty difficult,” she said.

To counteract that issue, she said that in the past she would try not to take both children at once on a shopping trip, but often at times, that was not possible. “I would try to divide and conquer,” she said. “Now I make a point of putting (the Tuesday shopping trip) on my visual calendar, just like I would book in speech therapy, occupational therapy appointments. For my boys that becomes familiar.”

Ms Miller said Quiet Hour also allowed her to meet parents in the same situation.

“We’ve listened to our customers, and our store teams have worked hard to make our stores more welcoming and responsive to the needs of the local communities in which we operate,” said Coles managing director John Durkan in a statement.

“We initially started with 70 Quiet Hour stores across the country, and now we’re thrilled to be more than doubling this figure to make Quiet Hour more accessible for our customers and help make a difference to their shopping experience at Coles.”

Coles developed the program in partnership with Autism Spectrum Australia. During Quiet Hour, lighting is dimmed, Coles Radio is switched off, register and scanning volume is reduced to the lowest level and PA announcements are stopped except in emergencies. Collection of trolleys are also put on hold and additional customer service staff are on hand.

What do you think of the Quiet Hour initiative? Let us know in the comments below.