Levin's Countdown supermarket is part of a new initiative designed to reduce noise in the store at a scheduled time each week to help those with sensory issues.

The Quiet Hour initiative will begin at Countdown stores around the country this week after a successful trial at a few selected stores over the last year following a suggestion from a team member with an autistic child.

The initiative offers customers a time to shop that is easier on the eyes and ears by reducing noise, lighting and other distractions.

Lighting throughout the store will be reduced, radio turned off, checkout volumes reduced, trolley collection and shelf-stocking will be kept to a minimum, and there will be no PA announcements made during that time.

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Levin Countdown store manager Lowell Robinson said he welcomed the initiative.

"It will appeal to a wide audience," he said. "Every store has different tweaks that can be made."

Robinson said the store would be displaying signs so those who came in and wondered why there was such a different atmosphere in the supermarket would understand what was happening.

"It's a lot quieter," he said. "Some people will obviously enjoy that. You can hear the hum of the refrigeration and that's about it."

He said that even some customers who don't have particular sensory issues would enjoy shopping in a more peaceful atmosphere, and that he expected the time slot to be used by a mixture of both adults and parents of children with sensory issues.

"It's a balancing act and will be something we fine tune," Robinson said.

"There will be learning from the first day. We have a good base and a good set of guidelines".

The Levin store's staff had been involved in planning and discussions ahead of the initiative being rolled out and even had some ideas around how they could evolve the concept, including possibly introducing sensory toys to help children relax during the scheduled time slot, he said.

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Countdown's Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability general manager Kiri Hannifin said the decision to roll out Quiet Hour nationwide felt right for its diverse customer base.

Countdown's Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability general manager Kiri Hannifin
Countdown's Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability general manager Kiri Hannifin

"We want our supermarkets to be welcoming and inclusive for all New Zealanders and their families," she said.

"We know grocery shopping can be an anxiety-inducing experience for some customers and we wanted to help with that. By making a few small changes and creating a
Quiet Hour, we hope we can make a big difference".

The low-sensory hour will be held every Wednesday from 2.30pm to 3.30pm