Squamish grocery store to offer weekly sensory reduction shopping

Save-On-Foods in Squamish | Photo: Keili Bartlett/the Squamish Chief

The lights will be dim, the high-pitched beep-beep-beep of the check out will be turned down, and the usual music silenced.

On Oct. 10, the Save-On-Foods in Squamish will be launching its weekly sensory reduction shopping. Between 1 and 3 p.m. on Thursdays, customers will be able to shop in conditions designed to make them feel more comfortable.

The idea was first inspired by one of the store’s employees, Jeana Duncan, who had a concussion and on-going symptoms years ago. Once the Squamish staff found out another Save-On-Foods store in Vancouver was also providing sensory reduction shopping, the Squamish store manager and Duncan visited to see how they operated.

The settings are designed to accommodate not only people with head injuries like concussions, but also people with autism, store manager Owain Hoefle told The Chief ahead of launch day.

Hoefle said one woman told him she hasn’t been able to shop for five years.

“For someone like her, I think it’s going to drastically affect her life,” he said.

The perimeter lighting will still be on so employees can work, and some case lighting will be kept on to see product, but the overhead lighting will be dimmed or turned off completely. The music will be turned off, and beeping checkouts will be turned down.

The time may change, based on the needs of the customers it’s meant for, since many people have work schedules to accommodate. Hoefle said they’re starting with hours when it will still be light outside, as it may be too dark during evening hours. A store sign will display the hours and any changes.

As for other customers, Hoefle said, "I really feel like this isn't going to hinder them too much. In fact, it might even make it more comfortable for them.

"As a business, I don't think it's going to positively or negatively impact sales. I think it's just the right thing to do." 

Squamish Chief