Penneys at Letterkenny Shopping Centre is to introduce autism-friendly shopping experiences including sensory friendly shopping hours.

The new measures aim to create an inclusive shopping experience for people with autism and their friends and families. The initiative has been developed in partnership with AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity.

Every Sunday, starting from 14 November, 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 new 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 the 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.

Penneys employees will also receive training supported by AsIAm. This training will be delivered through a custom-built Autism Awareness e-learning module, which will be hosted on Penneys’ digital learning platform.