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Walmart Canada to debut sensory-friendly store hours

Walmart Canada sensory-friendly stores
All 403 Walmart stores in Canada will now offer sensory-friendly hours.

Walmart Canada is launching a new initiative to make its stores more inclusive to all shoppers.

The retailer is adding sensory-friendly hours at stores across Canada with the aim to make shopping more accessible to customers who may experience sensory overload by providing a less stimulating environment. (In November, Walmart added sensory-free shopping hours between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. local time every day at all of its stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.)

All 403 Walmart stores in Canada will now offer sensory-friendly hours from store opening until 10 a.m. local time every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, where possible. During the designated hours, Walmart Canada will aim to create a calmer experience by eliminating or reducing potential sensory stimuli. There will be minimal sounds, with no music or radio advertisements and announcements/paging paused except for emergencies. 

In addition, only static, low-sensory images will be used on TV walls.

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"This is such an important step we're taking to create a more inviting and positive shopping experience for customers who experience sensory overload and their families," said Joe Schrauder, head of store operations at Walmart Canada. "We want our stores to be a place where all customers and associates feel they belong."

Approximately 33% of people experience sensory sensitivity or overload, with more than 25 diagnoses or differences contributing to it, according to Sensory Friendly Solutions. This means visual and auditory stimuli can be too intense to process, which can cause discomfort or frustration for customers as they shop.

"Sensory sensitivity and sensory overload are more common than you think,” said Christel Seeberger, founder and CEO of Sensory Friendly Solutions, an advocacy group that works with businesses. “It can be experienced by your family, your friends, your co-workers, your customers and maybe even you. And as a person with lived experience, I know it can stop people from living everyday life. Sensory-friendly environments and experiences make everyday life more accessible, inclusive and invite more people to participate and belong.”

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