By Martin Walker and Xavier Mesnard, A.T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council
The fastest-growing age group worldwide in this century will be people over the age of 60. What must retailers and manufacturers know to adapt to this older consumer group? In the first-ever international survey of consumers over the age of 60, A.T. Kearney interviewed 3,000 people in 23 countries to find out what mature consumers want. The short answer: prices and labels they can read, packaging they can open, and more places to sit down in stores.
In 1998, the number of people over age 60 overtook those under age 15 in the G7 (developed) countries. Based on current worldwide demographic trajectories, in five years, there will be more people over the age of 60 than under 5; in 30 years, there will be more people over 60 than under 16. When today’s newborn babies reach college age in 2030, 36% of Germans, 30% of the French, 22% of Americans and even 30 percent of Chinese will be older than 60. Longevity is not just a rich-world phenomenon.
What do retailers and manufacturers need to know about their older customers?
Already, some manufacturers and retailers are adapting to these new dynamics. Automakers Mercedes, Ford and Volkswagen are mimicking the physical limitations of aging as they design certain vehicle models. Hospitals are using the Disney philosophy to train staff in customer-service techniques for mature patients. Retailers such as Wal-Mart are hiring older employees, and Carrefour offers electric shopping carts. This is not just good business — it is also self-interest.
For retailers, aging may mean a paradigm shift in the design of stores and retail chains. Today, the central idea in retail design is to improve efficiency for shoppers. It is generally thought that consumers are busy working and raising their families