30 Future of Retail

issue 01

A few years ago, the buzz around the must-

have demographic was very different – it was all about the power of the grey pound. The world, it seemed, had suddenly woken up to the fact there is an aging population, which is living for longer than ever before. Furthermore, this was the ‘ Charmed ’ generation which had most of the disposable wealth – often brought up post-war, many older audiences had paid off their mortgages, were largely debt-free as they had often avoided running up debt throughout their lifetimes, and were also guaranteed the healthy pensions which may elude subsequent demographics. The thing is, these audiences haven’t gone

away – it’s just that the retail landscape, by and large, is seduced by the cult of the young. In the UK, there are over 22 million over-55 year olds. That’s over a third (36%) of the UK population. According to the Centre for Economic and Business Research and Saga, over 50s account for 47% of the UK’s consumer spending, equating to a not-insignificant £320 billion per year. This is a sizable, and overlooked, segment of the UK population, all needing clothes as much as the next audience – and it’s growing. There is also a vast difference between the clothing needs of a nonagenarian, and a 55 year old woman who is still working and cares about her appearance, so understanding and serving these differing needs is key. So, what’s stopping retailers from seizing on

the opportunity to engage with this valuable audience? Partially, it’s positioning. Many stores rely on the young, funky, and energetic image. This is both short- and longsighted. Goldman Sachs found that the millennial audience is the largest demographic in history – a larger audience than baby boomers even, at 92 million individuals. As they grow with a brand, the long term view is that they will stick with that brand. However, this does ignore an audience currently there for the taking – and potential spend which many retailers, coming off largely disappointing winter sales, could well do with accessing. The second reason is likely digital. Millennials are digital natives, moving

seamlessly from m- to e- to physical commerce. They are highly trackable, with their views largely available through social channels. In contrast, the prevailing perception is that older generations have been slower to embrace technological developments from online shopping to social. However, while this may have been the case several years ago, the British Banking Association has found that ‘silver surfers’ are fueling mobile and digital banking growth. It’s time retailers took another good hard look at their shopper demographics and how they move across channels. It’s likely to be different to what they expect. Our own research has found that well over

a third (35%) of over 55s ‘regularly’ shop for clothes online, with a further 34% ‘occasionally’ using the channel. And yet, the current clothes shopping experience is leaving a lot to be desired. Just under a quarter (24%) often or always consider it hard to find what they’re looking for either in-store or online. Furthermore, some 40% of over 55s actively perceive the process of locating clothes to be irritating. What does this tell us? They may be moving across channels as much as other generations, but they’re not getting the experience they want. Perhaps the most telling finding from our

research is that the grey market were the least likely to claim loyalty to a single retailer or brand. Again, this bucks received wisdom in the retail space – that the older you get, the more likely you are to find a single retailer to serve all of your clothing needs. This simply isn’t true. Not only are over 55s the most likely to shop around for the best price on the clothes they’re looking for, they are also the most likely demographic to shop around to find the brands they like. Some 30% of our over 55s agreed they like to shop around to find what they’re looking for – against just 7% of millennials. So, the audience is there, they are

discerning, they have money to spend, and evolving multichannel offerings are not giving them the clothes shopping experience they want. Given many retailers’ stated focus on personalisation, it seems clear that offering

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