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What Can Retailers Do about an Aging Population?

March 10, 2015

Our nation is aging, and fast. For every one shopper that ages out of peak consumption years, only 0.8 ages back in, meaning the US is not replacing shoppers on an age-weighted basis. So while this isn’t big news for many, it’s a persistent fact that sits heavy on the future of US retail, begging the question, “What are retailers going to do about this?”

Firstly, and most importantly, we need to understand that prime retail spending happens during ages 25 to 55.

During this timeframe, shoppers experience numerous important life occasions – buying a first home, getting married, having a first child, living independently, and so on. The markets that have the greatest share of population within this age segment tend to see the most growth within retail.

The challenge for retailers is in capturing this ideal market when the average US head of household is just six months shy of 50, and in the next five years more than 80% of US household growth will be among those headed by people ages 55 and older.

By 2020, aging boomers will add more than one million consumers per year to the 65 and older demographic – doubling the growth rate this particular age group has experienced during the past five years.

So how do retailers adjust their stores to cater to an aging population? It comes down to experiences and category assortment. The categories needing the most variety to leverage the needs of aging consumers tend to be food, celebrations, media, health & beauty and apparel. Changes to store experiences can include anything from slowing elevators down to adjusting shopping carts.

While these store changes improve the shopping experience for the aging segment, changes must be balanced. Retailers must focus on catering to multiple generations within their stores when adjusting their store experiences and category assortments in order to attract shoppers across all age segments and meet the unique shopping preferences of each group.

For a deeper dive into the complex, and ever-changing US retail landscape, GMDC has created an exclusive GMDC whitepaper: “North American Retail 2020.” You can download an executive summary of that research at: www.gmdc.org/north-america-retail-2020.

GMDC is the only trade association dedicated to building suppliers’ businesses in the GM and HBW industries based on retailer priorities throughout the US and Canada.

If you have interest or questions about how to meet with retailers and suppliers that have expertise and resources for you to go to market and grow your business, please contact Patrick Spear, GMDC President, at [email protected].

Or, send me your thoughts, comments or experience based on this article. We’d like to hear from you. Mark Mechelse, GMDC Director Industry Insights & Communications, at [email protected].