A WOMAN who has been the driving force behind an understanding and compassionate retail store in Barrow is the latest recipient of The Mail’s Trader of the Week.

Abi Buckingham is the owner of Aura 11, in Scott Street - a store redefining the word ‘normal’ by providing a range of special education, disability and sensory items.

As well as providing a safe space for children and adults with mental health worries, Aura 11, which opened in April, is unique by allowing customers to first get a sensory feel to an item before purchasing.

Mrs Buckingham said: “I’m over the moon to receive any recognition, so this award is a lovely surprise.

“We’re motivated by two things: providing a place which is autism-friendly and to help create greater understanding that there’s nothing wrong with people who are diagnosed with the condition.”

Since Aura 11’s introduction to the Barrow high street, Mrs Buckingham said the store had received a lot of positive feedback from the community.

She said: “Indirectly, some of our business has come from schools.

“We’ve spoken to teachers who have come to our store and we've given them advice on how to help diagnosed pupils.

“We’ve developed a stockist relationship with a few primary schools and academies around the area just as a side effect.

“With all the cuts in special educational needs, advice as a resource could go a long way to helping schools on such a sensitive subject.”

The store itself is simple in design with a vibrant colours.

Mrs Buckingham spoke passionately about the importance for the store to promote a sensory approach and revealed which item is the best seller.

“Our best seller is the bungie chair, which helps people release pent up energy”, she said.

“For people with autism, visuals and smells can be overpowering.

“There are things many of us take for granted: for example, simply walking into a store full of people.

“This can be stressful for people who are diagnosed.

“So, the store is more than just a safe haven - it’s an experience which caters to their needs.”

Mrs Buckingham and her husband John are already in the early stages of transforming the upper floor for community events for mental health and women support groups, which they hope to open by September.