Sensory friendly shopping coming to Creemore Foodland

 In Business

If you find bright fluorescent lights and constant sound a bit overwhelming, relief is on the way.
Beginning this month, Foodland Creemore will introduce sensory friendly shopping on Monday nights. New owner Sim Spry describes the initiative as a grassroots, store-led movement which has the backing of Foodland’s parent company, Sobey’s. It’s about being inclusive and providing people with an alternative shopping environment.
Since testing the concept at stores in PEI last fall, Sobey’s has rolled out sensory friendly hours at locations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and British Columbia.
The first Ontario stores joined the movement earlier this year. Response has been overwhelmingly positive, both from people with sensory sensitivities and those who simply appreciate the more relaxed environment. Even employees report that they find the stores calmer and more inviting on sensory friendly nights.
Sensory sensitivity is a problem for a growing segment of the population. The Centre for Disease Control reports that as of 2018, one in 59 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, with boys four times more likely to be affected.
Symptoms vary in severity, but according to Board Certified Behaviour Analyst Emily Beresford, the common factor is difficulty in processing everyday sensory information. Stimuli, as seemingly innocuous as a noisy air conditioner, can be very upsetting and can impact behaviour.
Often parents of children with autism simply avoid stressful situations, such as the typical retail environment. Beresford says small changes like dimmer lights and reduced ambient noise can make a big difference in quality of life for those afflicted and their families.
During sensory friendly hours at Foodland Creemore, lights will be dimmed by roughly 50 per cent, and sounds such as PA systems, music, telephones, scanners, and registers will be silenced or reduced.
Starting Oct. 28, Mondays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. will be designated sensory friendly shopping.
Spry will rely on feedback from the community to determine whether those hours should be expanded.
Since officially taking over the Creemore store in June, Spry has been impressed by the warm welcome from the community.
He grew up in the Shelburne area, where he got his first job as a grocery clerk at the age of 14 and he’s been in the business ever since. In 2018, he joined the Sobey’s Franchise Trainee Program, and when the Creemore store became available, he leapt at the chance. He and wife Ashley and their two small children look forward to making Creemore their home.
Spry loves the sense of ownership that shoppers feel toward their Foodland. He recognizes that, more than just a place to buy groceries, the store is a meeting place in the community.
He is committed to featuring local items such as Woods Honey, garlic from local farms and a range of produce from The New Farm.
He is proud that Foodland was the first major grocer in the province to stock Miller’s Dairy Ice Cream.
Spry wants to ensure that Foodland delivers the best possible shopping experience for all of their customers and promises that sensory friendly shopping is just the beginning.

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