Ellandi and Workman introduce sensory shopping days

Published:  07 June, 2017

Accessibility initiative aims to open up centres for shoppers with sensory processing conditions

Workman Retail and Elllandi shopping centre teams have been working together to help make their shopping centres more accessible and their latest initiativeaims to provide a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere to shop in for people who find shopping centres overwhelming.

While for the majority shopping is a way of relaxing and socialising, for people with a sensory processing condition 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.

The landlord and managing agent worked together on an initial trial at The Howgate Centre, Falkirk and Mercury Mall in Romford where 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.

Now Sensory Shopping Days are being rolled out at 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.

On the designated days hand dryers are switched off and paper hand towels provided. And where possible, quiet zones are 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, said: “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.”

Ellandi property director Mark Robinson 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.”

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