Let’s Not Forget the Elderly

Hardly a day goes by in the world of marketing without hearing or reading about Millennials. Albeit a very demanding generation, marketiers have high hopes for a generation widely touted as the future powerhouse of consumers. They are influencing trends and redefining buying habits, and many businesses seem to have focused their efforts on making the most of the opportunities the millennial consumer brings about.

The systematic implementation of technology in order to make life easier, faster and more convenient is one example of how brands and retailers have responded to the tech-savvy Millennial. In grocery retailing, one way how this has become apparent is the rising prevalence of self-service checkouts. In fact, recent data from the Association of Convenience Stores’ investment tracker reveal that one in four UK retailers had recently invested in till systems, while more reported that they were cutting staff hours as a result of the increase in living wage. This suggests investment is being made in self-service tills.

As much as technology is improving and enhancing the shopping experience for many, it can act as a deterrent, if not a threat, to some. Indeed, a recent survey by the Centre for Future Studies, commissioned by Anchor, a charity for older people, found that one in four (24%) older people (70+) are put off by self-service checkout machines, some finding them “intimidating” and “unfriendly”. Automated checkouts potentially add to loneliness and isolation among the elderly and they have been identified as one of the factors that make older people feel shut out from the high street, according to the report.

Older people (65+) make up a significant proportion of the UK population, 18% in fact. This compares to just 13% of those aged 25-34. With our population ageing, the share of the former is only set to rise – according to ONS projections, over-65s will make up 24% of the total population by mid-2041.

Over 65s also represent a pretty significant demographic in the context of convenience shopping. HIM data show that those aged 65 years and older make up almost a quarter (23%) of total c-store shoppers. They are a valuable demographic too; the average basked spend among 65-74s is £6.50 – compared to £6.29 for 25-34s – and they are more frequent shoppers too.

The Centre for Future Studies estimates that by 2030, retailers who are not elderly friendly could be losing annual spending of between £0.58bn and £4.5bn. So not only does it make financial sense to cater to this demographic now and in the future, but we also have a responsibility – as a society, as individuals and as business owners alike – to look after the elderly.

Supermarkets and c-stores need to make sure to be welcome destinations for all members of the community, from young to old. For many older people, the local store is a larger part of these people’s lives, and retailers have a duty of care, to a degree, to provide an environment in which they can connect with others while shopping. Human interaction is what gets older people into shops and there are many ways of enabling this, for instance by maintaining staffed checkouts, providing seating areas or hosting in-store book clubs and tea parties.

Promisingly, retailers who demonstrate community involvement will be rewarded for doing so; HIM data show that shoppers will visit a store more frequently if they rate the store’s community involvement more positively. So what’s stopping you from taking on some of the responsibility we all share in looking after the elderly?

Community involvement is one of the six key trends explored in HIM’s recently published Future of Convenience 2018 report.

The report can be accessed through the HIM website here.