Walmart (WMT) announced new “sensory-friendly” hours to help accommodate shoppers with autism, down syndrome, and other neurodivergent conditions. Starting July 22, customers can visit most Walmart stores between 8-10 a.m. on Saturdays for a less-intense shopping environment.
The world’s biggest retailer isn’t the first organization to offer this type of service. It was piloted by museums like the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Modern Art. Companies that offer sensory-friendly hours today range from AMC (AMC) to Chuck E. Cheese.
Dim the Lights
Roughly 1 in 6 American children have sensory processing difficulties. This means that excessive noise and light can cause intense stress.
For neurotypical adults, a trip to the store may feel highly routine. But, for those on the spectrum, the bright lights, large crowds, and loud music can be overwhelming.
During Walmart’s sensitive-friendly hours, lights will be dimmer and sounds will be softer in order to create a more peaceful and relaxed shopping experience for anyone who wants or needs it.
A New Normal
Walmart may not be the first retailer to offer sensory-friendly hours, but it could prove to be the most influential given its position as the biggest company in the US by revenue.
With Walmart’s announcement, consumers could see other major retailers like Target (TGT), Costco (COST), and Albertsons (ACI) quickly follow suit. If Walmart’s improved hours are good for business, adoption across the industry is even more likely.
If you, or a loved one, has sensory processing challenges, sites like Twenty-One Senses maintain directories to help you find stores offering sensory-friendly hours and experiences. With retail giants like Walmart on board, those lists could soon get a lot longer.
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