It’s Christmas Time

This guest post has been written by David Sinclair, Head of Policy and Research, International Longevity Centre-UK.

Christmas shopping: Photo - Thefuturistics via Flickr
Photo: TheFuturistics via Flickr

We are told that Monday was the busiest day for on-line shopping. BBC reporters were sent out to look at warehouses of goods ready to be sent out for the Christmas rush. But whilst journalists get excited by the Christmas shopping frenzy, it can be easy to forget those for whom the market lets down.

This week, Age UK published a new report by ILC-UK on the older consumer. The report shows that whilst the private sector is vital to our quality of life, far too often it fails the older consumer. The market barriers, from age discrimination to inappropriate advertising, highlight a shopping environment which is obsessed with youth. Large parts of the private sector simply do not understand the wants and needs of the older consumer and some of the barriers to the market are indicative of market failure. This is particularly true given that many of the issues highlighted in the research were raised in the 1960s.

Of course, the one addition to the list of barriers facing the older consumer since the 1960s relates to digital exclusion. The fact that around 6 in 10 older people have never used the internet, creates a major new barrier to the consumer marketplace for older people.

There is of course, no such thing as “the older consumer”. There is a considerable disparity between the income of the poorest and the richest older consumer, for example. Treating all older people the same is a huge mistake. Yet parts of the private sector assume that older people are brand loyal, that they don’t shop around, that they have no money, that they are infirm and not attractive consumers etc.

Some of these may apply to some older consumers (as they do to other age groups) but the moment the assumption is made that an older consumer fits into one of these groups, the advertising and marketing executives decide that this group isn’t a priority. And older consumers find themselves ignored.

For many, Christmas is an important time for families. Estimates suggest that older people buy around a quarter of the toys and confectionery on sale in our shops. Given the over-50s account for 44% of consumer spending, whilst the over 65s spend £100bn a year, the private sector ignores the older consumer at its peril.

The Golden Economy report is available on the ILC-UK website.

Author: Age UK

Age UK is dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. In the UK we help more than 7 million older people each year by providing advice, combating loneliness and enabling independence. Locally, we work as part of a network of independent charities which includes Age UK, Age Cymru, Age NI and Age Scotland and over 150 local Age UK partners in England and Wales.

One thought on “It’s Christmas Time”

  1. Two points really:
    1. In preparing services for older consumers, organisations should note that memories of the best consumer quality experiences often line up to memories of the era in which so called “olders” were more active. My mum 81 tells me how she dislikes the current music scence – all boom boom boom and no melody. For those listening today to such tunes (18 years olds) who will be 58 in 2030 – I expect they will still favour the boom boom boom (as it brings back memories) rather than carry out an internet search for my mums old Perry Como’s.

    2. Squaring the circle between olders consumer expectations and employees and their abilities to interact and communication may require a lot more effort on training
    (take for example your shopping experience in most retail stores on a Saturday afternoon) than many organisations currently provide. Hence I foresee the development of the older brand companies developing niche markets for consumer products and services. Any one with me on this…?

    Great report by the way…

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