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A Senior Shopping Moment

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Here’s a hot tip for smaller retailers looking for a sales lift: Try catering to senior shoppers.

New data from A.T. Kearney’s Global Maturing Consumer study finds that most shopping centers are focused on younger consumers who are busy with work and family and want to get in and out of stores quickly and efficiently. That’s not what older shoppers want: For seniors who are retired and may have less social interaction, shopping is an enjoyable, leisurely activity they want to prolong. They don’t like big stores, and they hate being treated impersonally.

The study found that seniors make more frequent shopping trips than younger customers. Two-thirds of respondents aged 70 to 80 say they shop twice a week or more. They typically shop on weekdays, preferably in the morning.

Still, retailers hoping to snare a bigger share of seniors’ wallets need to keep a few important caveats in mind.

• Seniors felt that signage, prices and store directions were hard to read. Fifty-two percent of those in the 60-to-70 age group, 58 percent in the 70-to-80 group and 66 percent of those over 80 say they can’t read labels clearly, even when wearing corrective lenses.

• Seniors complain that stores are generally understaffed and, when they do manage to find a clerk, that staff is not well-trained enough to help them. They also enjoy chatting with staff. In addition, most respondents (63 percent of those under 70, 75 percent of those over 70) said they would like to be able to sit down in stores.

• Seniors prefer smaller stores with a well-edited selection of items. They tend to buy fewer items than other age groups, but generally spend more per item. This holds true even for low-income seniors -- they are more focused on quality than price, and are very brand loyal. For higher-income seniors, there is a trend toward “trading up” -- cutting back on quantity but buying higher-quality items, especially in the food, beverage and clothing categories.

Why should retailers care so much about seniors? According to the research, 22 percent of Americans will be over age 60 by 2030. And seniors spend proportionately more of their income on discretionary purchases than do other age groups.

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