I visited Walmart during its ‘sensory-friendly’ shopping hours and loved the calmer, less chaotic shopping environment – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

Businessman, musician / former Full Stack Developer

DAVID RAUDALES UK

I visited Walmart during its ‘sensory-friendly’ shopping hours and loved the calmer, less chaotic shopping environment

Walmart’s sensory-friendly shopping hours are supposed to create a calmer atmosphere in stores. That includes static images on TV screens.

Grace Mayer/Insider

Walmart is holding sensory-friendly shopping hours on Saturday mornings during back-to-school shopping season.
In stores, radios are turned off, lights dimmed, and TV screens set with stationary images. 
Walmart says it is creating a calmer store atmosphere to better serve customers with disabilities. 

Shopping can be overwhelming with blaring music, in-store announcements, and bright lighting. Walmart is testing out a new kind of shopping experience — one that tones down all those features.

Walmart is holding sensory-friendly shopping hours on Saturday mornings at most stores for the back-to-school shopping season.

Walmart said the shopping hours are part of its efforts to create “a quieter shopping environment that’s more enjoyable for customers who live with sensory disabilities.” From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays, store radios are turned off, TV screens silenced and set with stationary images, and lights dimmed.

The program started in July and runs through August 26.

Walmart is giving customers a chance to navigate the store in a calmer environment and to reduce sensory overload. 

A sign at Walmart’s entrance advertised the store’s sensory-friendly shopping hours.

Grace Mayer/Insider

For shoppers with disabilities, the changes made during these store hours may be especially beneficial. But even consumers without disabilities will discover the sensory hours provide a peaceful environment to shop in. 

During my own trip to a Walmart store in Kansas during these hours, I was shocked by the quiet atmosphere in the store.

During the sensory-friendly shopping hours, Walmart’s TVs are set to silent and display a message about the store creating a “calmer shopping environment.”

Grace Mayer/Insider

There was little noise, save for smatterings of chatter from employees, beeps from items being scanned through checkout lines, and employees rolling carts throughout the store. 

No music or announcements were playing over the store radio, and when I strolled through the electronics section, computer screens were blank and TVs were silent and only displayed pictures with text that read: “During these hours you’ll experience a calmer shopping environment.”

When I returned to the store several days later during regular shopping hours, the biggest change was in the electronics section. There, computer screens displayed a slideshow of visuals…

Some computer screens were displaying advertisements.

Grace Mayer/Insider

 

… and the electronics aisles were buzzing with noise from video advertisements flashing across TV screens and competing with the store’s radio. 

During regular shopping hours, the Walmart TVs blared commercials.

Grace Mayer/Insider

Everywhere else in the store, a persistent string of music and announcements blared. I also had to weave my way through more shoppers who were filtering throughout the store. 

I don’t have a sensory disability, but I found shopping during the sensory-friendly hours a calmer experience overall.

There were fewer shoppers and the overhead lighting was slightly dimmed.

Grace Mayer/Insider

There were no announcements cutting into my train of thoughts or music playing overhead. During these designated quieter hours, there was no sense of rush.

Fewer shoppers were in the store during the Saturday morning hours, compared to my second visit on a Monday morning. At first, the store lighting didn’t seem dimmer, but I realized the overhead lights were softer than the harsh bright, “buy-me” lighting typical of large department stores. 

For children and adults with disabilities, these changes are likely significant.

Grace Meyer/Insider

Supermarkets, compared to restaurants, public transportation, and healthcare settings, were considered the most disabling environments for adults with autism, according to a 2022 study published in the journal “Autism in Adulthood.” 

People with autism reported enduring a “spider web”of disabling senses in supermarket settings — faced with bright store lighting and persistent noise filtering from store music and announcements.

Walmart isn’t the only retailer making changes like these. One and four US adults who have a disability, and retailers are finding ways to create more inclusive experiences for those customers.

Target and Starbucks have implemented measures to create more inclusive shopping experiences for customers with disabilities. Target has a few sensory-friendly product lines, including home items for kids. Starbucks is testing out speech-to-text technology for customers who order or pick up items in store. The coffee company launched a free service in 2021 that assists people who are blind or have low-vision as they navigate a store by connecting them to visual interpreters over a phone app.

Read the original article on Business Insider