John Lewis & Partners has launched a specialist children’s shoe fitting service in partnership with the National Autistic Society ahead of back-to-school shopping.
Training sessions, delivered by National Autistic Society consultants to John Lewis staff across kidswear and the retailer’s “experience desk”, focused on autism awareness and included sessions with the teams on how to deliver the service effectively for children and their parents.
Parents booking an appointment will speak first to staff at the experience desk either in store or over the phone to discuss their child’s needs and how the shop space can be altered to suit those needs. Staff can then suggest ways the appointment can be tailored to the child – from ensuring a calm environment in a private shoe-fitting room, to adjusting music or suggesting particular walking routes through the shop.
The John Lewis website will highlight the shops involved with the trial and list direct telephone numbers for booking appointments.
The service is now available in the John Lewis stores in Cheadle, Cribbs Causeway, White City, Bluewater and Southampton, and will be rolled out further.
Caroline Bettis, head of buying, childrenswear, said: “Shoe fitting can be stressful enough for children and their parents but this experience can be even more challenging for autistic children. I hope this service will provide a less overwhelming environment which will help autistic children find the perfect pair of shoes.”
Tom Purser, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “We hear from autistic people and their families that busy public spaces can be challenging because of bright lights, amplified sounds, and crowds or queues can cause them to feel overwhelmed. Our research shows that 28% of autistic people have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism and 50% of autistic people and their families sometimes don’t go out because they are worried about how others might judge them.
“There are 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their needs aren’t always immediately obvious. We know a basic understanding and small changes like ones that these John Lewis shops are putting in place could transform the lives of autistic people and their families, allowing them to take part in activities many people can take for granted.”