Sainsburys unveils first UK signing store

Sainsbury's has just unveiled the UK's first signing store in Bath, as part of its 150 Days of Community initiative.

The iconic sign above the superstore’s door changed to Signsbury’s overnight, in a move to celebrate community inclusivity and encourage all colleagues and customers to sign with one another.

This follows over a hundred colleagues in the store taking part in British Sign Language (BSL) lessons, delivered by local signing school I Can Sign. The lessons were supported by a colleague who is deaf, Sam Book and Rachel Shenton, the Oscar winning screenwriter who famously signed her 2018 acceptance speech.

Signsbury’s will be open for four days from the 18 – 21 July and will see colleagues sign several common words and phrases when interacting with customers - from greeting them at the door, asking if they have a Nectar Card to even discussing the weather.

Elsewhere in the store, helpful screens have also been installed which demonstrate how to sign different words and phrases, including ‘milk’, ‘trolley’ and ‘bananas’, with the hope to encourage customers to get involved in the initiative and walk away from store with some newly learned phrases in sign language.

What’s more, children will be able to Sign for a Snack: upon mastering how to sign basic words, they will be given a free fruit snack.

The move comes as part of Sainsbury’s 150 Days of Community scheme, launched as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations. The initiative sees its 185,000 colleagues across the UK given the opportunity to volunteer for a cause they feel passionately about in their local community.

When store manager Paul Robertson and his team, including deaf colleague Sam Book, heard about the initiative, they suggested making the Bath store more deaf-friendly to help the deaf and hard of hearing community – and so Signsbury’s was born.

It is estimated that around 11 million people in the UK live with hearing loss– approximately 35,000 of whom live in Bath[1]. It is hoped that this initiative will help to encourage better communication with those who are hard of hearing by creating a supportive environment for both colleagues and the local community.

Sainsbury’s has long been committed to being the most inclusive retailer and helping to support all colleagues and customers in their shopping experience. Three years ago the retailer launched the 2016 film ‘Life Doesn’t Come Without Subtitles’ to teach colleagues and the public how to sign.

Tim Fallowfield, Company Secretary & Corporate Services Director for Sainsbury’s, is Board Sponsor for Disability and Carers across Sainsbury’s and Argos. He said, “We’re really excited to be launching this Signsbury’s initiative at our store in Bath. We want to be the most inclusive retailer where people love to work and shop and it’s really important to us that we support both customers and colleagues with hearing difficulties to feel as comfortable as possible in our stores wherever we can.

“We’re really proud of Paul and the team at Bath who thought up this wonderful idea as part of our 150 Days of Community celebrations.”

Paul Robertson, Sainsbury’s Store Manager said, “When I heard about our 150 Days of Community scheme, I thought it was the perfect time to use the opportunity to explore new ways to make our store more deaf-friendly. We have many hard of hearing customers in Bath and always want to make their experience as brilliant as possible, and we hope Signsbury’s will help better their time in store even more.”

Rachel Shenton, ambassador of National Deaf Children's Society, said, “This is a fantastic initiative to be involved in. It’s been brilliant to see the colleagues of Sainsbury’s be so engaged in the idea and it’s a great step towards inclusivity for the deaf community. This feels like the start of something exciting and I hope it encourages more people to get involved.'

The public and Sainsbury’s colleagues from across the country can get involved by learning key phrases used by Rachel Shenton, I Can Sign and Sainsbury’s colleague Sam Book in a series of helpful videos, which can be viewed below. The training is a skill for life that colleagues can use in everyday life.