Sainsbury's colney hatch 3

Sainsbury’s is making three of its Liverpool stores ‘autism-friendly’ in a small-scale trial.

Customers will be able to pick up specially designed activity bags, request the opening of priority checkouts or even ask for the tannoy and music to be switched off in its Rice Lane, Woolton and East Prescot Road branches.

Employees at the three stores have also received training from community enterprise Autism Adventures to enable them to provide specialist assistance.

Sainsbury’s will encourage customers to provide feedback on the trial and review the results at the end of April, when it could decide to roll out the initiative more widely.

“We want all of our customers to have a great shopping experience in our stores,” said Sainsbury’s head of customer experience Natalie Dunn. “There are many aspects of a visit to the supermarket which can be stressful for parents of children with autism, so we are trialling ways in which we can make their lives easier.”

Julie Simpson, founder of Autism Adventures and mother of a child with autism, said the trial was “hugely encouraging”. “As a parent of a child with autism, it’s fantastic to have the ability to request for modifications to be made as soon as I enter the store, meaning a calmer and hopefully stress-free shopping trip for me and my son,” she said.

The scheme comes two months after Tesco announced a 10-week trial of a ‘quiet hour’ in its Crawley Extra store, during which escalators are turned off and lights are dimmed, to help shoppers with autism.

Sainsbury’s has recently launched a number of initiatives to help specific groups of shoppers, including a ‘slow shopping’ service to help elderly shoppers in one Newcastle branch last year and the rollout of trolleys for older disabled children in 2014.