Customers like Asda plan for quiet shopping time

The story of the supermarket manager who is introducing an hour for quiet shopping in his Asda store on a Saturday morning  has received widespread attention. Initially inspired by observing a mother struggling to shop with a boy with autism, the move has been met with overwhelming approval by other customers. Having talked to parents of children with autism, he wants to provide respite for shoppers and their carers, where increased sensitivity to noise makes shopping a struggle, and also for those who just want to shop in peace.

Campaigners have long complained about the intrusion of instore piped music in many outlets, and consumer researchers Which? found nearly half of the respondents to their poll don’t like background music. But it’s not just the music that contributes to the din in large shops that can disconcert the noise sensitive. In recognition of this other noise sources – including display TVs and escalators -will be turned off to make the shopping experience less challenging for those with disabilities resulting in increased noise sensitivity. As well as people with autism, young children, the elderly and people with dementia can all find constant noise from a range of sources confusing and disturbing.

One source that hasn’t been mentioned in report’s of Asda’s action though is the noise the sound of high speed hand dryers found in many WCs. These can often be accidentally triggered by movement in the confimes of a small toilet area. A body of research now shows that the sudden aggressive sound of powerful hand dryers in a quiet space can panic children and others sensitive to noise – so much so that some are afraid to go into public loos. Hand washing and drying is important for hygiene – especially in stores selling food – so we wonder if Asda also plan to turn off hand dryers if they have them and provide paper towels?

It’s great to see a large store recognising the requirements of customers and wish Simon Lea and the staff of Cheetham Hill a successful Saturday when the doors open quietly on May 7th. We hope other shops will take note and consider that it’s not just those with disabilities who want quiet shopping. We encourage all stores to consider what they can do during Noise Action Week – 23 – 28th May, to recognise that many customers and staff would appreciate a bit of quiet time instore.

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