The Grey Pound: Are Retailers missing a trick?


Most retailers' offerings are focused on appealing to younger consumers: millennials, Gen Z and the rise of the latest (yes, another one), Gen Alpha. This is largely a consequence of a growth in influence the youngest have in guiding many of the purchasing decisions in families. Retailers also recognise these youngsters as their future customers. As a result most of the attention has been focused on connecting with this demographic.

However, there is a growing segment of the population at the other end of the generational line: the over 65s.

With an increasingly ageing population in the UK, it will become more and more important to retailers that they are able to permeate the Grey Pound. This demographic has the spending means and, often, the time. Improvements in healthcare have resulted in longer and better quality lifespans which coupled with rising retirement ages means a longer period of income stream before unlocking their pensions.

These factors contribute to the importance of addressing the wants and needs of the over 65s who are becoming more tech savvy and who could benefit the most from the immersive experience an in-store visit can reap. According to the Office for National Statistics, over half of UK pensioners now shop online and this figure is only set to rise. To address this, stores can offer community based experiences to bring people together and provide an outlet for various hobbies and community-led interaction.

Retailers will be mindful that targeting this generation needs to be managed with a long-term outlook and a need to keep reinventing their offering as the generation which follows replaces it. This has become all too clear from the recent closures on the high street who have failed to keep up with generational shifts. However, there is much to be said for appealing to a demographic who might otherwise feel alienated in an environment where they do not feel valued as customers. 

Perhaps attitudes need to change from one of categorising individuals by their age, or generational tagline, to an approach which focuses on meeting the needs and wants of different consumers. This is particularly important in the context of the in-store experience when brand loyalty is difficult to entrench with so much choice. It can be just as effectively cultivated in a generation who have grown up with no alternative to  the traditional in-store shopping model.

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With an ever-ageing population, it is crucial that retailers address the needs of the over-65s. The group’s spending power means winning here can be the key to sustained success, but established ways to attract older people in-store will no longer cut it. Just as they are doing with families and young people, retailers need to create experiences that surprise and delight their older shoppers. They need to demonstrate an understanding that you don’t suddenly become “old” – while providing a base from which real communities can be established and grow.
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