New Store Considered for Senior Shoppers

Discussion
Sep 02, 2008

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Partner, Fine Food Network

Following an experiment by German supermarket, Kaiser, that seems to be far more successful than anticipated, British chain, Tesco, is considering a store designed specifically to meet the needs of older shoppers. Music, non-slip floors, extra-wide aisles, brighter than usual lights and steps to assist in reaching high shelves are just some of the German store’s features.

To see if the concept would translate to the British market, a group of over-65s from Newcastle, where Tesco is considering opening a first pensioner-friendly store, toured the first one to open in Germany. The fact-finding mission was led by Professor Jim Edwardson, 67, founder of Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health. The Daily Mail quoted Professor Edwardson as saying, “Almost everything about supermarket shopping in the U.K. is wrong for elderly customers, from shelving that is too high to reach or too low to get to… The Kaiser store was the first of its kind in Germany and is so impressive. The trolleys on their own are lighter and easier to move.”

He also admired clear signage and magnifying glasses on shelves and trolleys.

Since the Kaiser store opened in 2005, sales have increased by 25 percent above forecast figures, with more than 60 percent of its customers aged over 50, according to the report.

Recognition of the growing number of older people in the U.K. is making retailers consider ways to accommodate them. The charity, Help the Aged, claims that addressing their needs will cost little but will lead to large rewards. It is predicted that in just 20 years’ time, half the population of Europe will be aged over 50. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the UK already has more pensioners than children under 16.

Michael Kissman, Tesco’s corporate affairs manager, told just-food that they will be listening to what the Institute has to say after their visit.

“They are leaders in the field for looking at ageing and lifestyles for older people and whenever Tesco opens up a new store we consult the local community on our plans.” He stressed that no decision has been made although a possible site has been identified next door to the Institute.

Discussion questions: What do you think is the market potential for senior-friendly stores? What are the pros and cons for U.S. chains opening such concepts? Are they really useful for older shoppers, way too patronizing, or just another bid for publicity?

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21 Comments on "New Store Considered for Senior Shoppers"


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Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
13 years 8 months ago

Build them a lively store by the side of the road
Where the race of seniors will like to attend.
Plan it so they can easily reach the product needed
And their eyes can read price tags without pretend.

Don’t make grandma and gramps feel like topped out dudes
That are tolerated while they still have spendable cash.
Appeal to the youngsters still lingering in their souls
Or else this experiment will wind up like leftover hash.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

I have thought for a while that this is needed. I do all the shopping in my household and if I occasionally shop on a different day, like Thursday morning, I am struck by the different demographics of the shoppers…they are elderly.

Then I began to think how poorly the store was organized for that population and the poor level of service relative to what such a population might require. Stuff on high shelves, shelf tags with prices that are hard to read and harder to decipher, etc. Little help with bagging and getting groceries back into the car (or cab, as some cannot drive).

Glad to see someone has shared the epiphany and is doing something about it.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
13 years 8 months ago

Maybe it’s just me but all the new features integrated into “seniors” stores sound like they should be in every store. After all, is it only seniors who would like to browse wide, well lit aisles with items that are within easy reach?

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
13 years 8 months ago

It’s interesting. The first chain to try out senior oriented stores was Edeka in Austria. Not only were they popular among seniors but those very features–larger signs and lower fixtures among them–were also the things that attracted younger clientele to the stores, according to the chain’s own research.

This concept is going to work particularly well in Germany and Austria, both of which have large aging populations. The trick is not to make people feel old, but to simply provide convenience for all shoppers. I think you’re going to see more of this in the U.S. as time goes on.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

Brilliant! This makes total sense. There are areas of the U.S. where concentration of seniors demands that retailers market to that constituency. And, marketing includes the store experience.

But, I couldn’t help thinking while I was reading the commentary that each of these ideas to be implemented in “senior oriented” stores would be positive for all shoppers. Wider aisles? Better lighting? Reachable higher shelves? It is tough to argue with any of these improvements for any supermarket.

Liz Crawford
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

As many have noted, the aging population is growing, due in part to health care and increased life expectancy in this century. So there is definitely a market for this kind of retail.

According to the Pew Foundation, the percentage of elderly people (over 65) will increase to 19% of the population by 2050, or about 81 million people. That’s up from 37 million elderly in 2005. For contrast’s sake, in 1990, the elderly accounted for 19% of the population.

What’s interesting to me is the innovations and changes that result from accommodating the elderly in grocery, I believe, will infiltrate other forms of retail too. These innovations, which are more inherently people-friendly, may also find their way into mainstreaming retail and digital retail spaces.

David Biernbaum
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

I’m bullish on the idea of senior friendly stores if the marketing plan, the advertising, and the execution are offered skillfully and accurately. There will be a fine line between success and failure where getting out the message is concerned. Do it sincerely, and do it right, and success will happen.

Anne Howe
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

Having recently been to Meijer with my vision impaired 79 year old dad, I was dumbfounded at the issues he encounters every week just trying to pick up essentials for his assisted living room. He is the most “sighted” of 8-10 cronies in a wing that specializes in sight loss, so he shops for many. Hooray for Tesco on this one and I hope a major retailer in the USA quickly follows suit.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
13 years 8 months ago

The idea is not new. Unfortunately, no one has really seized the opportunity to master this concept. Demographics say it’s time for this format to succeed.

The social aspect of these stores will be what makes one successful over the others. Tea, coffee, and lots of social space to meet and greet their friends and enemies every day will keep the customer coming back.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
13 years 8 months ago

This is an excellent way to capitalize on the aging marketplace. Older customers appreciate the touches retailers offer them. Wider aisles, more power carts, bigger signs, brighter aisles an so forth will become a value proposition for this particular segment. The senior demographic will only grow, so offering them something different only makes sense.

Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
13 years 8 months ago

Other than a few markets, are there that many markets that can support a store targeted to seniors? I question whether this market sufficiently concentrated to be profitable in many areas.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

We talk about serving the market. We have been catering to the youth movement Generation Y and yet, the fastest growing market is Baby Boomers. If you want their share of the market you are going to need to cater to their needs. Just remember they may be older but most of them don’t want to see themselves as older. Yes, I love restaurants with larger print on their menus so I do not have to take out my cheater glasses to read the menu. No, they do not have a sign that says “Would you like a menu with larger print?”

Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

In many places, the stores for seniors are already established: they’re dollar stores that take food stamps. As social security cost-of-living increases fall further and further behind real inflation, more and more seniors will be living in poverty.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

Personally, I’m really not all that hot on the idea because –

The trick is not to make people feel old, but to simply provide convenience for all shoppers. Len Lewis

Are there that many markets that can support a store targeted to seniors? Michael Murphy

They may be older but most of them don’t want to see themselves as older. Mel Kleiman

Appeal to the youngsters still lingering in their souls. Gene Hoffman

It’s important to recognize the boomer resistance to growing old and introduce the features as anything but senior friendly, but still catering to the aging demographic. Carlos Arambula

Steve Bramhall
Guest
Steve Bramhall
13 years 8 months ago

Great news from Tesco and hopefully some of the innovations and customer focus will flow through to all their stores. This combined with all the other add on services, like insurance and medical care, will make it reassuring for the older shopper.

Carlos Arámbula
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

According to census data, the country will have the appropriate demographics for senior stores. However, it’s important to recognize the boomer resistance to growing old and introduce the features as anything but senior friendly, but still catering to the aging demographic (George Carlin would have loved the dilemma of finding the appropriate friendly name).

John Gaffney
Guest
John Gaffney
13 years 8 months ago

This is a brilliant idea. The population is aging and the retail industry has certainly done its best to overserve young consumers. Walk through any mall if you need proof. The key here will be to attract older consumers without making them feel old. Customer engagement practices and metrics will be critical.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
13 years 8 months ago

As with tailoring retail to bilingual consumers, youth consumers and other audiences with “special needs,” there will definitely be an advantage if critical mass allows the concept to survive. Perhaps the stores will attract the attention of the children of senior parents who are now struggling with the transition from child to parent, if you will. Their awareness of the store today will build a loyal consumer following tomorrow.

ken gronbach
Guest
13 years 8 months ago
Demographically there is no way this concept could succeed here in the United States. I know this is counter-intuitive but the numbers don’t lie. We have been told for decades by AARP and others about the overwhelming graying of America being precipitated by the aging of eighty million Baby Boomers. There is only one problem. The Baby-Boomers aren’t old yet. The oldest of the Boomers are in their early sixties, hardly elderly. The next generation to become elderly is the Silent Generation born 1925 to 1944,aged sixty-four to eighty-three. The GI Generation born 1905 to 1924 (now eighty-four plus) was a huge generation but they are almost all dead. The Silent Generation is the smallest generation of the last one hundred years owing to the Great Depression, WWII and zero immigration during their birth years. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the assisted living industry in the United States is crashing and AARP’s membership has nosedived. Yes, a store for senior Boomer shoppers would be a great idea–if you built it… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

I think I’d like one of these stores, and I’m only 60. But I fear what merchandisers would do: probably find a high-ticket impulse item and put it on every endcap. Since I’d forget buying it as I went thru the store, they could probably sell it to me 9 or 10 times on a typical trip.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
13 years 8 months ago

If you want to see the best service for Senior Citizens in the world, visit http://www.thevillages.com. This is the largest residential development in the US and one of the largest retail developments in the world. The community is 55 and over and all the retailers there focus on an active retiree market. Retailers looking to understand the coming wave of active adults retiring should study it.

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