Slow Shopping is for anyone with visible, invisible or intellectual disabilities who may find shopping stressful or challenging. It provides a safe space and time to think for all who need it, as well as their carers and families.
I was inspired to create Slow Shopping by the experience of shopping with my mum who lived with dementia. She was an independent minded person and shopping was an activity that we could do together. As the dementia progressed our shopping trips became increasingly challenging. Mum might get confused, or need the toilet, or want to go home. I was trying to care for my mum, manage my own emotions, as well as to mediate between the store staff and other customers’ expectations. Sometimes it was a very isolating and upsetting experience. I reflected on this and after mum passed away I wrote-up a small project and took it to my local supermarket.
Slow Shopping advocates a designated time in the week when there are enhanced services available to customers. Having a designated time enables stores to manage their resources and plan their provision. Staff are trained so that they have knowledge and skills to support customers and the customers know that this is a time that they can visit the store and understand that they can get assistance if they need it. During Slow Shopping no one has to identify themselves as having particular needs, unless they wish to.
Slow Shopping is designed so that it is a no fuss, straightforward and manageable way of working for shops and supermarkets. There is a guide available as well as a short video to support staff. I have been able to work with several large and small stores personally.
Shopping tends to be an undervalued activity however it involves social interaction, making choices, financial skills, moving around as well as being part of the ordinary everyday life of a community. Shopping can be an activity that is part of a therapeutic intervention. It can be done by anyone, rich or poor, well or living with ill health, an individual can wear more or less what they want to and the protocols of shopping are universal and have been part of our ordinary lives since the little play shop in the nursery. Shops are also warm and safe places to be.
It was over two years ago that I took my project to my local supermarket and they are still offering Slow Shopping to their customers. I am now working with Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Waitrose, Tesco and have two shopping centres interested.
I am advocating Slow Shopping as an opportunity for people who may feel isolated or disenfranchised through visible, invisible, intellectual or cognitive disability to be able to engage in ordinary community life at whatever level they wish to.
I also wanted to share the idea of ‘cognitive reserve’ - a theoretical concept which seems to be built from a lifetime of exposure to cognitive stimulation. There is research (Stern, 2007) to indicate that higher cognitive reserves have a protective effect on the brain. Shopping may be part of a stimulating, well lived life. This may lead to longer wellness and independence and thus contribute to the health and wellbeing of the individual and may help to delay the onset of cognitive decline.
The experience of Slow Shopping
For the customer; they are able to come shopping alone or with someone and know that there are chairs to sit on and support if they need it. They are not judged and are given the time they need to do what they want to. Customers report that they like the experience very much and choose this time to shop because they feel empowered to ask for help.
For the Store; they are able to plan their time and what they offer during Slow Shopping. Many stores quieten the music, stop using the tannoy, provide extra seating and do not stack shelves. This means that more staff can be available during the Slow Shopping and everyone has an awareness that a customer may need extra assistance. Stores have reported increased footfall during Slow Shopping as well as a ‘halo’ effect as customers like what they are offering even if they don’t use it themselves.
For the staff; they enjoy this time and report how calm the store is and how they are able to really spend time with customers and help them. They like offering the service and they feel better about their work.
About the author
Katherine Vero is the Founder and CEO of Slow Shopping.
Y Stern (2017) Cognitive Reserve: Theory and applications. Google Scholar. Available online: https://bit.ly/2qI50gn