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Quiet Hour helping to reduce the stress of the weekly shop

Quiet Hour helping to reduce the stress of the weekly shop

02 April 2022

It may not seem much, but for those who may have autism or sensitivities to light or sound, it can make a real difference to something which seems everyday to many islanders.

For those unfamiliar with autism, it is estimated that there are around 1,100 islanders in Jersey are on the autism spectrum.

Autism is described as a condition which may affect how an individual communicates, relates and interprets the world around them. It can take a variety of forms often being as unique as the person themselves. Whereas one person may have difficulty with communication or social interaction, another may find bright lights or certain noises overwhelming. Yet, living with autism does not mean that a person can not still live a healthy and fulfilling life.

But it can mean that day-to-day activities, such as supermarket shopping, can become an anxious or stressful event for someone who has, or lives with a person on the autism spectrum.

Since 2017, The Channel Islands Co-operative Society have been running their dedicated ‘quiet hour’ in their Grand Marché stores.

Every week, for an entire hour, the cacophony of noises and hectic nature, which is often commonplace in our larger supermarkets, are put on pause for 60 minutes. For those unfamiliar with autism, it may seem a strange inconvenience to have little light or no sounds. But for those who have the condition, it really can make a great deal of difference to their shopping experience.

At the time, ‘quiet hours’ were a recognised initiative across retail stores in the United Kingdom but had not quite yet crossed the Channel to Jersey. But, it was thanks to combined efforts between Autism Jersey and The Channel Islands Co-operative Society that saw Quiet hours become a regular feature in island stores.

Now, every Monday between 3pm and 4pm the Grand Marché stores turn off music, avoid tannoy announcements, and reduce the bleeps of tills to the lowest setting. The scheme had a temporary hiatus due to the pandemic, but it is now back and running weekly for all islanders.

It is a very welcome return for many, including Autism Jersey’s chief executive officer, Chris Dunne. He said: ‘An awareness and understanding of autism goes a long way to helping the people that we support on a daily basis. It just goes to show how some small changes can make a big difference to people with autism.’

In addition to the Quiet hour changes, several staff have also undergone autism awareness training in order to be available to help improve the shopping experience for those on the autism spectrum.

Now in its fifth year, the Co-op’s Quiet hour is still gaining positive reception from islanders. Yet, for the retailer, it is seen as another string to its bow in recognising itself as a community retailer and welcoming islanders of all abilities.

Mark Cox, chief executive officer of The Channel Islands Co-operative Society said: ‘The Co-op is at the heart of our community. We recognise how much of a role we play in island life, so we wanted to be more aware and mindful of our customers’ diverse needs. When we were approached by Autism Jersey we thought that ‘quiet hour’ sounded like a fantastic initiative.

‘If you consider the hustle and bustle of a busy retail store, you can appreciate how this could potentially be overwhelming to some people.’

The Quiet hour runs weekly at Grand Marché St Helier and Grand Marché St Peter between 3pm to 4pm.