DISCOUNT retailer Home Bargains has introduced a weekly 'quiet hour' at its stores to create a calmer environment for shoppers with autism.

Music is switched off and non-emergency tannoy announcements stopped between 9am and 10am every Saturday.

The initiative – which has been implemented at the store at Alston Retail Park, in Keighley – was developed in conjunction with the National Autistic Society.

Joe Morris, Home Bargains operations director, said: "We have introduced the quiet hour to add a peaceful element to retail therapy.

"Our stores can be busy places, which may be potentially overwhelming for people with autism.

"We have created the quieter and calmer environment to enable all our customers to have an enjoyable and relaxing shopping experience."

The move is welcomed by Tom Purser, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society.

He said: "We hear from autistic people and their families that shops and other public spaces can be challenging because of bright lights, strong smells and crowds or queues, all of which can cause them to feel overwhelmed.

"Our research shows that 64 per cent of autistic people avoid the shops and 28 per cent have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism.

"There are 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their needs aren’t always immediately obvious.

"We know that 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 that many take for granted.

"We hope more shops will be inspired by Home Bargains and do their bit to help ensure autistic people and their families have the same opportunities as everyone else."