Empire expands sensory-friendly shopping program

More than 450 stores across Canada will dim lights and turn off music to accommodate shoppers with sensory sensitivities

Empire banners across Canada are adopting sensory-friendly shopping hours to make the experience more tolerable for people with autism.

What started as a pilot program at a Sobeys store in P.E.I. in 2018, has grown to more than 450 stores country-wide across the company's Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Thrifty Foods, Foodland and FreshCo grocery chains.

Participating locations will dim store lights and turn off PA systems, music, telephones, scanners and registers as part of the sensory-friendly shopping experience. Knowing consistency is important for shoppers with sensory sensitivities, each store has selected a day and time to provide the accommodations.

"It’s important to us that everyone knows they are welcome in our stores," said Heather DeBlois, director of diversity and inclusion, Sobeys, in a press release announcing the national rollout. "Sensory Friendly Shopping has truly been a grassroots movement driven by our store teams, demonstrating how important it is for retailers to consider how they accommodate a diverse customer base."

Empire said it would continue to rollout the program at stores across the country.

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