Are you missing out on the ‘grey’ pound?

shutterstock_252628924Owen Reading, co-founder of Eyejusters speaks to Talk Retail about how retailers are missing out on the over 50 market.

Retailers are increasingly aware of the value of mature customers. Today, £1 in every £2 spent on consumer goods and services is spent by someone over the age of 50; a fact that is hardly surprising when you consider that this age group is estimated to hold around three quarters of the UK’s financial wealth.  The appeal of the ‘grey pound’ has never been greater.  So why are so many retailers missing out?

The fact is that today’s over 50s are very different from previous generations.  They are a fit, adventurous, health-focused, style-conscious, tech-savvy group – that does not think of itself as grey.  At the same time, they are more comfortable with who they are and understand that maturity brings changes.  Fifty-somethings are leading ladies in Bond films now. They want to embrace life and ageing on their own terms.

Take reading glasses, for example.

Everyone over the age of 45 will at some point need reading glasses. Needing help with close-up vision (known as presbyopia) is an inevitable consequence of getting older.  However, that doesn’t mean a contemporary fifty-something will be happy to have spectacles perched on the end of their nose as they move between perusing a menu and checking their smartphone.

Online style guides that warn unwary fifty- and sixty-somethings about ‘10 things that make you look older’ invariably end the list with reading glasses: cheap ones, boring ones, or those that have a short life-span – even when your eyesight is inevitably worsening.

For retailers such trends actually represent an immense opportunity: a chance to address the practical needs of this immensely valuable demographic in a way that isn’t patronising, descriptive, or ‘grey’.  To use our own product as an illustration, there are glasses on the market with the latest lens technology in stylish frames that allow the user to adjust the power setting. In other words, they are adaptable to the user’s immediate need, suitable for the diverse close-up activities of this active group. Further, they are available over the counter so can be sold by retailers alongside fashion or accessories; an area where, according to the Saga report, the over 50s are expected to increase expenditure by around 8 per cent year on year.

The Financial Times has highlighted the challenge faced by retailers struggling to address the sometimes hard to predict needs of today’s fifty- and sixty-somethings.  It noted that some retailers simply turn their back on the revenue potential of mature consumers to focus on the more predictable, yet far less lucrative youth market.

We believe it doesn’t have to be that way.  The needs of mature consumers, such as the purchase and use of reading glasses, can and should become part of a targeted, empowering retail experience.  An experience that offers as many benefits to the retailer as it does to the consumer.

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