University of City London
UK is getting old. Europe is getting old. This is one of the most significant trends shaping future demand, yet many of our clients are confused as to its real significance to their business. Unless there is a sudden dramatic increase in the birth rate, or a surge in immigration, this shift towards a sizeable majority of middle-aged and elderly consumers will continue.
There seems to be great confusion around what constitutes the 'grey market' within many industry sectors. Some still start with the over-55s, others start at 65. Different generations are lumped together uncritically in a way that would be unthinkable with the youth market as though in these later stage of life we begin to lose our distinguishing characteristics, and blur into a general haze of 'the retired', and then 'the elderly'.
On more than one occasion, I have discussed with my grand father who fined it hard to accept that the over-65s matter: he always says that "I've heard a lot about the grey pound, but I can't see any evidence of it myself - where is it?" The answer, of course, is that it's all around us.
The assumption seems to be that he will suddenly see an upsurge in spending on stair lifts, pipes and slippers, tweed skirts and anti-macassers. Yet of recent work in this area indicates that the majority of pensioners are heavy consumers of ready meals, increasingly comfortable with online channels and extremely interested in trying new things. Indeed, with 25% of the over-60s taking three or more holidays a year, a significant part of the 'grey' leisure pound is being spent outside the UK.
I believe that traditional socio-demographics are less and less helpful in predicting current and future consumer needs.