Making shopping centres accessible to all – introducing ‘SENSORY SHOPPING DAYS’

Posted by Ellandi on 6th Jun 2017

For the majority of us, shopping is a way of relaxing and socialising. However, for people with sensory processing conditions, a visit to a busy shopping centre can be just the opposite. Crowded stores, bright lights, piped music and noisy tannoy announcements can lead to sensory overload, meaning that shopping centres can become confusing, intimidating and frightening places.     

Workman Retail and Ellandi shopping centre teams have been working together to help make their shopping centres more accessible; this is achieved by providing a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere to shop in. Hand dryers are being switched off and paper hand towels provided; where possible, quiet zones are being provided for anyone to use, particularly aimed at those who are feeling overwhelmed, overloaded or anxious.   

Staff are being trained by local groups such as Dementia Friends, National Autistic Society and other local charities and groups to ensuring that the staff feel more comfortable dealing with and approaching customers who may be experiencing difficulties in the shopping centres.   

Some have even taken to learning basic sign language too and where possible we are getting the retailers themselves on board to reduce or turn off music and to join in on the training.

Robin Howland, Partner at Workman Retail commented: “We hope that by making some simple alterations to the way our centres are run we can make the shopping experience a more enjoyable and comfortable one for people and their families who deal with these conditions every day.”   

Mark Robinson, Ellandi Property Director, added “To thrive, shopping centres need to be safe, inclusive and welcoming places for all of the community. Having a child with sensory perception disorder makes me well aware of the challenges faced by people and carers with more severe conditions and we are proud to support this initiative across our portfolio with Workman.”   

The Ellandi centres, managed by Workman Retail across the UK who are involved in the Sensory Shopping Days project are: Marlands Shopping Centre, Southampton; Eastgate Centre, Gloucester; Grays Shopping Centre, Grays, Essex; White River Place, St Austell; Bouverie Place, Folkestone; Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre, Chelmsley Wood; Priory Centre, Dartford; The Swan Centre, Eastleigh and Pentagon Shopping Centre, Chatham.   

By rolling this out across the whole portfolio we hope to be able to share the experience across each centre, thus increasing the speed with which we can learn what is successful and how we can adapt to make the project more impactful.    

We are hopeful that with the volume of centres involved it should enable us to promote this project more widely within the industry.   

An initial trial at The Howgate Centre, Falkirk and Mercury Mall in Romford show that the Sensory Shopping events have been very well received. The events were well publicised and some shoppers travelled many miles to visit the centres because they know it will be a more comfortable experience.   

Carrie Grant, well known for her work on The One Show, Pop Idol and Fame Academy among others, campaigns to raise awareness for invisible and sensory disabilities and wholeheartedly supports this initiative, commenting “These small adjustments make all the difference to our children and others struggling with sensory issues for all kinds of reasons. The fact that it is a regular day and not just a one off event is great. The fact that Workman and Ellandi are taking this even further by training staff and offering a variety of inputs is just brilliant.”   

Daniel Cadey, Autism Access Development Manager at the National Autistic Society also praised the scheme, commenting “We are delighted that Workman Retail and Ellandi are committed to working with their local communities and The National Autistic Society. The simple changes they propose to make can only bring about greater understanding and make a huge difference to the 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their families.”  

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