Dimensions helps Marks & Spencer launch autism friendly ‘Sensory Sunday’

To mark World Autism Awareness Day, Dimensions UK advised M&S on store adjustments to make shopping more accessible for people living with autism

Dimensions has supported Marks & Spencer to hold a sensory friendly hour for customers with autism who may find busy shopping environments overwhelming.

Launched to mark World Autism Awareness Day (Friday 2nd April), the ‘Sensory Sunday’ initiative saw Dimensions provide educational resources and advise on a number of adjustments to Marks & Spencer’s Worcester store during the first hour of trading (10.30am-11.30am) on Sunday 28th March.

Changes included store lighting being dimmed, no music being played, phones being kept on silent, till bells not being rung wherever possible, and smells (such as floral displays) being minimised.

M&S staff were also guided by Dimensions on how to minimise sensory overload for customers, including by refraining from moving stock around during the hour and being on hand to open extra tills so as to shorten queues.

Dimensions’ advice for M&S Worcester was designed specifically to reduce the impact of these factors, in order to help people with autism shop in store with increased confidence.

Guidance provided by Dimensions will be retained by M&S Worcester, which will now hold Sensory Sunday on a weekly basis, with the hope that the scheme will be rolled out to more stores nationwide.

Dimensions is also inviting expressions of interest from other retailers who may wish to launch similar initiatives.

Dr Jeremy Tudway, Clinical Director at Dimensions UK, commented:

“We want people living with autism to live full, meaningful lives and to thrive. That is why we have been delighted to work with M&S Worcester to create their first ever Sensory Sunday, as a way for people with autism and sensory issues to shop with increased confidence. We look forward to hearing feedback on the scheme, and we hope that more retailers will consider similar steps to help make shopping inclusive for their customers who have sensory sensitivities.”

Katherine Leydon, Plan A Customer Assistant at M&S Worcester, added:

“It was great to have the support from Dimensions UK to help us deliver this initiative. This is the first of many and we look forward to receiving further feedback from our customers to help us shape our sensory friendly hour moving forwards.”