Tesco shopper checkout

Busy stores and high noise levels were identified as key problems facing autistic people, says new research

Up to 80% of autistic people and their carers have abandoned in-store shopping at major supermarkets, according to a report by a leading UK autism charity.

Autistica’s research found supermarkets were losing out on a potential £13.5m in weekly revenue from the group.

Almost all of the 120 autistic people and families surveyed (98%) said that autism made shopping more difficult.

Three-quarters of respondents found that busy stores and high noise levels were problematic, with 49% flagging up PA announcements as an issue.

Moreover, 53% of shoppers found queuing difficult, with over half (55%) saying staff training and autism-friendly tills would help.

The National Autistic Society’s ‘quiet hour’ campaign introduced by Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op and M&S is working, with 67% of respondents finding the regular quiet periods made shopping easier or more enjoyable.

“It’s great to see many stores starting to make adjustments for autistic shoppers. However, until carrying out this survey we didn’t have much evidence to back up our assumptions of what changes needed to be made,” said Autistica CEO Jon Spiers.

“We are keen to work with supermarkets to help them make the small adjustments needed. It’s important that we remember to consider autistic adults, not just children, as this survey shows that they find supermarkets just as difficult as parents of young children on the autism spectrum.”