Penneys introduce autism-friendly shopping hours across Irish stores


In order to help shoppers with autism feel more comfortable in their stores, popular retailer Penneys have teamed up with Irish autism charity, AsIAm, to introduce sensory friendly shopping hours.

 In doing so, Penneys hope to create an inclusive shopping experience for autistic people, their friends and families.

Every Sunday, starting from November 14, autistic people and those close to them can visit Penneys stores during the Sensory Friendly Shopping Hour, which is the first hour of store opening, secure in the knowledge that several measures are in place to ensure a calmer and more inclusive shopping experience.

These measures include noise reduction across the store such as silencing tills and in-store announcements and turning off in-store music, while also offering additional assistance and support from in-store Champions who have all received specialised training from AsIAm.

As part of the Penneys Autism Friendly Shopping Experience, Penneys has created special digital support materials accessible on the Penneys website to ensure that shopping is more accessible for autistic people outside of the Sensory Friendly Shopping Hour. 

Customers can visit their relevant store page and through visual and audio aids, prepare themselves for the sights and sounds they may experience while in store that may cause sensory overload. 

It also includes a store map and visual guide called My Trip to Penneys to prepare for their visit and help identify how they can navigate through the store when they arrive. Customers will also be able to easily access these online supports through QR codes placed in-store.

AsIAm also conducted thorough audits of Penneys stores and highlighted areas of high sensory input as well as a list of recommendations to create a more comfortable shopping experience for autistic people during all trading hours.

Speaking about the new initiative, founder and CEO of AsIAm, Adam Harris said, “Shopping and the retail environment can be an incredibly overwhelming experience for autistic people and their families, due to crowded environments and the sensory overload from noises. We are delighted in AsIAm to have partnered with Penneys to make shopping more accessible for our community.”

To support with the rollout, AsIAm will support with training for Penneys employees.This training will be delivered through a custom-built Autism Awareness e-learning module, which will be hosted on Penneys’ digital learning platform.