Sensory-friendly shopping makes sense to this store owner

A grocery story in Arnprior, Ont. is offering a sensory-free shopping experience twice a week. Photo credit: Getty Images

Beeping, loud intercom pages, crowds, music and bright lights are all things you experience when walking down aisles in any grocery store.

But, for some, all those can be triggers to many kinds of sensitivities.

A No Frills just outside of Ottawa, in Arnprior, Ont. offered its first sensory-friendly shopping experience Feb. 4 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. which eliminated those triggers listed above – most notably by dimming lights and turning off intercom systems,

According to media reports, the trial event was such a success Mark’s No Frills will be doing the same thing twice a week.

Franchise owner Mark Harrison has two children on the autism spectrum and knows just how challenging loud grocery stores can be, according to the CBC.

The idea came from store employee Carol Greer, who found on social media something similar was being offered at a store in Truro, N.S.

Michael Leblanc, senior retail advisor for the Retail Council of Canada, says there is a trend between customers and retailers in which retailers respond to questions with experiments like sensory-friendly shopping.

“It’s not unusual they would think of ways to serve customers better, it’s a way the retailer lives and breathes,” he says.

“Especially when so many of the customers may have children on the autism spectrum,” he adds.

According to the CBC report, many retailers have shown interest in doing something similar to the No Frills in Arnprior, though it’s not easy for grocery stores that aren’t independently-managed.

Stores which are not independently-managed have to get approvals from upper management in their companies to do something like this, Leblanc says.

Dedicating time to sensory-friendly shopping isn’t something that would cause harm to those stores, he adds.

“Most customers who came in and saw lights dimmed or no music on would just assume the power went out until further notified,” says Leblanc.