THE busy Christmas shopping season is upon us and while many enjoy the Yuletide rush and Christmas cheer, others find the increased number of people, sounds and lights overwhelming and stressful.

In order to make Christmas shopping accessible for everyone, high street store The Entertainer has introduced a Christmas Quiet Hour taking place every day in its 171 stores across the country.

The initiative aims to create a calmer shopping environment for autistic people and for any shoppers who find the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping an uncomfortable experience.

What will be different during quiet hours?

Store staff have undertaken additional training to help them support customers who may be overwhelmed by the sensory overload that Christmas shopping can be for many.

While shoppers in other stores will expect loud Christmas carols and flashing lights at this time of year, The Entertainer will be turning off its Christmas songs and dimming the lights wherever possible for an hour a day.

Why is the store doing this?

Research from the National Autistic Society found that 50% of autistic people and their families sometimes avoid going out because of concern about people’s reaction to their autism and that sadly over a quarter (28%) have been asked to leave a public space because of behaviours related to their autism.

Gary Grant, Founder and Executive Chairman of The Entertainer, said: “We all know that shopping during the festive season can be stressful as shops turn up the music and bring as much festive cheer and theatre to the store to entice shoppers in, which is great but it’s not for everyone.

"So this year we’re doing something very different – for the first hours’ trading each day there will be no music playing, our lights will be dimmed wherever possible and our stores will be made to feel calmer for our Christmas Quiet Hour.

"This is to show our continued support for autistic people and their families and for those who find shopping during the festive season stressful and overwhelming.

"We hope that it helps make Christmas shopping enjoyable for everyone.”

Tom Purser, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “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 quiet hours could transform the lives of autistic people and their families, allowing them to take part in activities many people can take for granted.

"We hope more shops will be inspired by The Entertainer and do their bit to help make sure autistic people and their families have the same opportunities as everyone else. If you would like to know more about autism visit”

When will the quiet hour take place?

The Entertainer’s Christmas Quiet Hour will be in operation for the first hour of trading at each store from now until December 31.

The majority of stores open at 9am but you can doublecheck your nearest store's opening hours by clicking here