Tone it down: A shopping mall accommodates autistic customers

In the UK, 1 in 100 people are diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s, and nearly all of them find their surroundings overwhelming. When it comes to shopping, the crowded, loud and fluorescent environment of stores leads to nearly 64% of the autistic population avoiding the act all together.

intu, one of the UK’s largest owners of shopping centers, serves more than 35 million unique customers annually (that’s more than half the UK population) and on October 2, 2017, they will recognize the more than 3 million Brits with autism.

In partnership with the National Autistic Society, intu will roll out the first nationwide “quiet hour” for autistic shoppers. Acting on the fact that nearly 79% of people with autism feel socially isolated, intu will dim the lights and turn down the music in all their locations for one hour with the aim to raise awareness and generate more autistic-friendly practices throughout the industry.

In the U.S., 1 in 68 people are diagnosed with autism. For the most part, this consumer segment has been largely ignored, however, some brands have begun to cater to the autistic population. AMC and Chuck E. Cheese’s have sensory-sensitive programs, whereas some Target stores, Bass Pro Shops, and Toys R US locations have quiet hours, or open early exclusively for sensory-sensitive customers and their families.

In our most recent THINK report, we highlight the importance of brands sharing values with the Conscious Consumer. No longer motivated purely by price and convenience, the mainstreaming Conscious Consumer demonstrates brand loyalty and places a premium on like-minded companies.

intu, AMC, and Toys R Us are not merely targeting a previously ignored consumer population, instead, they’re demonstrating a commitment to social responsibility that will establish an emotional connection between their brand and the millions of people directly or indirectly affected by autism and Asperger’s. While those efforts give shoppers the support they need, it can also help generate stronger brand-customer relationships.

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