During Quiet Hour, noise is reduced in stores with Coles Radio switched off and the volume reduced on cash registers and scanners. Lighting and other distractions are also altered to create a calmer ambience for customers who find it difficult to shop in a high sensory environment.
Trolleys and roll cages are also removed from the shop floor and PA announcements are only made in the case of an emergency.
The supermarket giant has also trained staff to provide support to customers where needed.
Coles shopper David Brinkley prompted the idea, when he asked for the noise to be reduced at his local Coles store in Healesville in 2017, to make it more accessible for children with autism.
The supermarket giant partnered with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) to discover the impact of environmental surroundings of a store to customers with sensory challenges. Initially, the concept was trialed in two Coles supermarkets in Victoria in August 2017 before later being implemented at 177 stores nationally.
Coles accessibility sponsor Peter Sheean said the response to Quiet Hour has been positive.
“At Coles, we are passionate about improving accessibility in our stores,” Sheehan said. “We are always looking at ways we can make life easier for our customers and how we can respond to the differing needs of communities by creating a shopping environment in which our customers and team members feel comfortable,” he said.
The supermarket aims to introduce the concept at every eligible Coles supermarket by 2023.
“Unfortunately not all supermarkets currently have the ability or technology to offer Quiet Hour at their store due to control of lighting or audio and store locations. However, we are working hard with our store teams to retrofit technology into those stores particularly where we’ve had feedback that customers want to access Quiet Hours as part of their shopping.”