Coats hanging on rack

Coat hunt goes global!

Finding a replacement for Ashton's parka sparks a search across the world

By Deborah James, 31 March 2017
Coat hunt goes global!

Our colleagues at George pulled out the stops to track down a replacement for nine-year-old Ashton Fisher’s favourite parka when his mum Gemma got in touch to say she was desperate to find one.

“I must have gone in 20 shops looking for a replacement. Sometimes we would buy one but we’d have to take it back because Ashton didn’t like it.”

Ashton, who’s being assessed for high-functioning autism, wears his navy parka constantly but he’s grown out of it – and the item was discontinued a year ago.

When Gemma got in touch via Facebook and explained how attached Ashton was to the jacket, the George team kicked off a global search … and were delighted when they got news there was one in the larger size Ashton needed at a factory in China.

The Chinese suppliers despatched the jacket, which they found in their archive, to our George HQ in Leicestershire – and they sent it on to Gemma and Ashton.

Gemma said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to the George team at Asda. I am so grateful to your company for going above and beyond in order to help my son. It means a lot to someone who struggles with change in such a big way.

Gemma, 32, lives with husband Scott, 34, and Ashton’s brothers Jaydan, 11, seven-year-old Alfie and Harry, two.

She said: "We first noticed the signs that Ashton may be on the autism spectrum a few years ago. He struggles to make eye contact and struggles to communicate as he sometimes doesn’t respond to people. People think he’s being rude but he’s not – he’s very switched on and intelligent.

We took him to a pediatrician and he’s now being assessed for high functioning autism.

This week, from March 22nd to April 2nd, is Autism Awareness Week, which is all about spreading understanding about this lifelong developmental disability that affects one in 100 people – that’s more than 700,000 in the UK.

Because autism is on a spectrum, it affects people in different ways. In Ashton’s case one of the effects is struggling with change.

He’d grown to be very comfortable with the parka, which Gemma bought from our Keighley store nearly two years ago.

She said: “He likes the style of the coat, is very comfortable in it and has worn it ever since I bought it, so it’s become damaged and torn due to so much usage. I repaired and stitched it as much as I could but he started to grow out of it too.

Gemma went shopping for another jacket in a larger size, but Ashton was attached to the George parka – “I must have gone in 20 shops looking for a replacement. Sometimes we would buy one but we’d have to take it back because Ashton didn’t like it.

She said: “As a last resort I messaged George through their Facebook page in January.” Her message was picked up by Amaya in the social media team, who quickly understood why the jacket was so important to Ashton.

Amaya contacted Anna, one of our buyers at George, and explained the challenge. They got pictures and details of the parka from Gemma and started the global hunt.

Amaya said: “I exchanged quite a few messages with Gemma to reassure her we were doing what we could and told her not to give up hope.

Anna traced the jacket to a supplier in China and several weeks later she sent this email to Amaya: “Amazing news… the factory has been able to find a jacket in size 10-11!!! :)

Amaya relayed the news to a delighted Gemma – and last week a package arrived at her home with the parka for Ashton.

Gemma said: "When I messaged George I knew it was a total long shot and didn’t think for one minute they’d be able to find another.

It’s lovely that they didn’t charge us too. I would have paid because it means so much to him.

Gemma says it’s fantastic when people understand the challenges for a child who might be on the autistic spectrum and take time to help and support them.

We were in a shop recently trying to get him a new pair of shoes and we were in there for an hour and a half because for Ashton the shoes have to be perfect. He tried so many pairs on and would say they didn’t fit, or he didn’t like the velcro, or the laces were too long.

The lady in the store was brilliant with him. I explained that he was being assessed for autism and she was great. All I ask is for colleagues in shops to be patient and understanding with him, and she was.

Amaya, who kicked off the hunt for Ashton’s parka, said: “I’m so made up that Gemma’s little boy got his jacket.