From Wednesday October 23, Countdown stores across New Zealand will offer customers a low-sensory Quiet Hour every Wednesday from 2.30pm to 3.30pm.
Countdown has been holding Quiet Hours in a small number of stores for the last year after one of its team with an autistic child suggested it would be a great idea.
After testing how the concept would work for team and customers, Countdown is rolling Quiet Hours out nationally after incredibly positive feedback.
Quiet Hour offers customers a time to shop in Countdown stores that is easy on the eyes and ears by reducing noise, lighting and other distractions in-store.
Lighting throughout the store is reduced, in-store radio is turned off, checkout volumes are lowered, trolley collection and shelf-stocking is kept to a bare minimum, and there are no PA announcements except in emergencies.
Countdown’s general manager corporate affairs, safety and sustainability, Kiri Hannifin, says Countdown’s decision to roll out Quiet Hour nationwide felt right for its diverse customer base.
“We want our supermarkets to be welcoming and inclusive for all New Zealanders and their families. We know grocery shopping can be an anxiety-inducing experience for some customers and we wanted to help with that. By making a few small changes and creating a Quiet Hour, we hope we can make a big difference.
“The lovely thing about Quiet Hour is that we have had very positive feedback from so many customers. Our older customers seem to really enjoy Quiet Hours too, as well as many other Kiwis who actually just find shopping a bit stressful and can now visit at a more peaceful time.”
Countdown’s Quiet Hours have been developed with the support of Autism New Zealand, who have provided advice to Countdown’s team on how they can best support customers with sensory needs in their stores.
Autism New Zealand chief executive Dane Dougan says the invisible nature of autism can mean it’s hard to create understanding and awareness of the difficulties people with autism face carrying out day-to-day tasks.
“We’re thrilled that Countdown will be offering Quiet Hour in its stores and it highlights how some small changes can create a more inclusive environment that will impact people significantly.
“We’ve had amazing feedback from the autistic community who have benefited from Quiet Hour over the last year and the increased understanding of autism and sensory needs that it is having as well.”
Countdown’s Quiet Hours will be held every Wednesday from 2.30pm to 3.30pm, with the exception of two stores - Countdown Silverdale and Countdown Northwest which will hold their Quiet Hour from 9am to 10am.
At this stage, Countdown’s two metro city stores will not hold a Quiet Hour.