Sainsbury's invited Ripley school pupils to its Sunflower Hour which aims to make the store more autism and disability friendly

Pupils from Alfreton Park School, try shopping during the new Sunflower Hour quiet period at Sainsburys Ripley
Pupils from Alfreton Park School, try shopping during the new Sunflower Hour quiet period at Sainsburys Ripley

To make its store more autism and disability friendly a Ripley supermarket has a quiet hour each week.

Sainsbury's in Ripley is one of the stores across the country that is rolling out a 'Sunflower Hour', aimed at making the store more autism and disability friendly.

Every Wednesday at 10am the store removes any overwhelming stimuli such as the tannoys which are turned off, the selfscan checkouts which are muted, and staff don't move any rollers around for the hour.

After a successful few weeks the store in Bridle Lane, Butterley Hill, arranged for pupils from Alfreton Park Community Special School to have a tour of the school and take part in activities including baking a batch of bread and using Smart Shop.

Hayley Large, charity ambassador for Ripley Sainsbury's, said: “We recognise that not all disabilities are visible and wish to make everybody’s experience in store more comfortable. The sunflower design is now recognised by a number of organisations.

“Sunflower Hour started as a trail earlier this year and now Sainsbury’s and Argos have rolled it out nationwide. The initiative offers customers with a hidden disability to come in the store and pick up a sunflower lanyard, this is designed to be a discreet sign for staff.

“The lanyard show staff that this person may need a bit of extra support while walking around store, they may need more time at checkouts or help looking for a product. This is aimed at people that may have dementia, autism, anxiety.”

The school tour took place on Wednesday, December 4, and was the third sunflower hour in the store.

Hayley said: “They’ve gone fantastically so far. We have already gained one autistic customer who felt previously unable to come shopping with his mother and I’m sure there are more.

“The idea to have the school come in was initially from a colleague, Rachel Spray, who cares for her disabled daughter Jessie, who attends Alfreton Park Community Special School.

“Personally, I think the kids had a great time and our colleagues loved to see them coming through store, everybody wanted to say hello. The sunflower hour really impressed them and the teachers that came with them.”