Morrisons Quieter Hour for shoppers to start on Saturday

Morrisons in Hadleigh. The supermarket chain is introducing a Quieter Hour. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROW

Morrisons in Hadleigh. The supermarket chain is introducing a Quieter Hour. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Shoppers in Suffolk and Essex are having their say over news that Morrisons supermarkets are introducing a new weekly quiet hour.

Vicki Lee, co-chair of Stowmarket ASD Saturday Clubs. Picture: JOANNA HARRIS

Vicki Lee, co-chair of Stowmarket ASD Saturday Clubs. Picture: JOANNA HARRIS - Credit: Joanna Harris

From this Saturday, Morrisons stores in the area will be joining others across the country by introducing Quieter Hour, aimed at shoppers with autism and other enhanced needs.

This will run from 9-10am on Saturdays, with no loudspeaker announcements or music and dimmed lights. Basket and trolley movement will also be reduced, and the volume of self-service checkouts will be reduced.

The initiative has been created with support from the National Autistic Society, aiming to ensure that shopping is made as smooth as possible.

Morrisons has 493 stores nationally, in locations including Ipswich, Felixstowe, Hadleigh, Harwich, Clacton, Witham and Diss.

Vicki Lee is co-chair of Stowmarket ASD Saturday Clubs, for children and teenagers with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She said: “This is welcome news, to see big national retailers such as Morrison’s making such an adjustment to their operations.

“It is a huge public acknowledgement of those who may struggle with sensory issues, whether they are adults or younger children. They may not have a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder, but may simply have certain traits of it, or indeed another diagnosis altogether.

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“Lighting, sound, visual and spatial stimulation etc can all be too much for some and make the weekly shop a very difficult experience for some families, indeed adults too, who are striving for independence. It’s the way forward ... let’s see which other supermarket retailers follow.”

Julie Macro, a volunteer with the West Suffolk branch of the National Autistic Society, also supported the move, saying: “It’s lovely to hear, I think it’s brilliant. But it would be nice to see other stores like Sainsbury’s and Tesco having quieter times too, as we don’t have a Morrisons in Bury St Edmunds.”

Autism Anglia, which is based in Colchester but covers all of East Anglia, also backed the move. Marketing officer Dave Taylor said, “We have heard this fantastic news.

“Supermarkets can be daunting places for some people on the autism spectrum. The over-stimulation these environments sometimes create can cause sensory overload and, ultimately, complete meltdowns. This can be extremely distressing for both children and adults with autism, as well as parents, siblings and other family members.

“Many families avoid supermarkets entirely for this reason, which can reduce a persons’ sense of independence, which, of course, is not acceptable.”

He added, “We also hope that other retailers follow Morrisons’ example and work towards making their environments more accessible to all communities.”

The charity has made a video to show what experiences such as shopping are like for people with autism.

However, Ruth Gatward of Mildenhall, of Autism Action Group Suffolk, said her experience as the mother of a 21-year-old son with ASD, ADHD and other issues was that it is better to help people with autism manage busy places, as well as shopping at the quieter times. She suggested using things like headphones for younger children, which can be removed as they mature, and having key rules to help manage their needs.

She said, “Maybe a room where they can go with parents to help calm might be more useful. How will they police the quieter time and what if someone has a meltdown and distresses other shoppers, with ASD or otherwise? I think it’s just a marketing ploy and we should be using inclusion and education to other shoppers.”

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