EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


September 30, 2012

Silver tsunami

Companies set sights on aging consumers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Easier-to-chew foods, brighter lights in stores and bigger, clearer fonts on packaging: Those are a few of the changes marketers discussed at a conference about how to sell to aging consumers.

The retail innovation conference at Wake Forest University’s uptown Charlotte campus was sponsored by drugstore chain CVS Caremark. It was the first of what the school says will be an annual series.

“There’s a silver tsunami coming as the baby boomer population moves into seniors,” said professor Roger Beahm, executive director of the school’s Center for Retail Innovation.

That tsunami is expected to change everything from the width of store aisles (wider, for easier navigation) to where popular items are placed on shelves (not too low or too high – within reach of motorized scooters) and how stores are laid out (smaller, with benches for tired shoppers to rest on, and more carpet to avoid slips and falls).

Executives who make packaged goods and foods talked about how they would change labels (contrasting colors to make them easy to read) and snacks (saltier and sweeter, for aged taste buds).

Chris Gray of senior adult marketing agency Zillner said companies need to adjust because older people will only increase in relative importance.

“The senior group is the only one that is actually growing” as a proportion of the population, he said.

There are already about 50 million Americans age 64 or older, who spent an estimated $50 billion last year on packaged goods. That number is expected only to rise.

Stores are already adapting their assortment of goods to draw in older consumers. Matthews, N.C.-based Family Dollar was cited as an example of a company that is adding more health and wellness items to appeal to older customers, and seeing higher sales as a result.

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