Last year, supermarket chain Sainsbury’s introduced sunflower lanyards: an initiative to make shopping easier for customers with hidden disabilities. We speak to Leigh, store manager at Sainsbury’s Barnstaple, where the lanyards were introduced.
During September 2018, the sunflower lanyard scheme was piloted at the Sainsbury’s Barnstaple store. The scheme aims to provide extra support for customers with hidden disabilities like dementia, autism, hearing and visual impairments.
Now, more than six months since the scheme was launched, the lanyards are available in 39 stores nationwide.
The sunflower scheme is part of Sainsbury’s vision to be an inclusive retailer for both customers and employees.
Customers can pick up one of the lanyards as they enter a store to show staff members they may need extra help.
“I think colleagues have found it really valuable,” says Leigh. “It’s always great to make someone else’s life a little easier when we can.”
Employees at the Barnstaple store were also given extra training to help them better support customers who are living with a hidden disability or condition, Leigh explains: “We had a session at the local hospital to help our colleagues with dementia awareness, and many colleagues also completed online training.”
The team additionally attended charity groups run by mental health charity Mind and a children’s hospice to understand more about how they can help.
Raising awareness of how the lanyards can benefit customers was a focus for Leigh and his team.
“We want all our customers to feel at ease when they shop with us and our colleagues are delighted to offer extra assistance,” emphasises Leigh. “It really helps us go above and beyond.”
Since the pilot began the lanyards have increased employees’ disability awareness and knowledge, while helping to take the stress out of shopping for customers.
Leigh recalls one customer, who is partially sighted, paying for fuel and looking for products by herself, something she hadn’t done for a long time.
“She said that once she wore the lanyard, she felt a sense of increased confidence for the first time,” remembers Leigh. “She explained to me that this may seem simple to most people, but to her these were huge steps forward.”
The lanyards are also helping to increase other customers’ understanding of hidden disabilities.
“A customer spoke to me about the experience of shopping with her two autistic children, which she previously found very difficult,” stresses Leigh.
“Since both of her children started wearing the lanyard in store, she has noticed the difference not only in colleagues offering her more support, but other customers will ask about the lanyards.”
As the scheme grows and expands across the UK, Leigh hopes more retailers will recognise the initiative and join the fight for inclusive shopping.
To see a full list of where the lanyards are available, visit about.sainsburys.co.uk