Smart Picks Part I

Senior Concierge Service

If personal services make up the hottest business industry today, then the senior citizen demographic is one of the most potentially profitable segments of the personal services market. Sound confusing?

Consider these statistics for clarity: Based on data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau for the American Association of Retired Persons, there will be about 70 million older persons by 2030--more than twice their population in 1990. Furthermore, people 65 and older are projected to represent 13 percent of the population in the year 2000 and 20 percent by 2030. As the baby boomers age, the market for personal services will expand, too.

Yvette Gooch knows these projections well. In 1990, she and her mother, Maria Solorzano, started a personal grocery-delivery service primarily aimed at assisting senior citizens. Their business, E Z Pantry Inc., is located in Berlin, New Jersey, a rural area where public transportation is limited. "Our service allows our customers--especially the ones who have stopped driving--to remain independent," says Gooch.

E Z Pantry distributes a 92-page catalog that lists, by numbered code, everything available from its 5,000-square-foot warehouse, which is filled with products purchased at wholesale prices. Perishable groceries are specially ordered from local merchants, who prepare orders to be picked up by E Z Pantry's drivers each day. By placing their orders between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., customers can receive their groceries the next day. A $3 fee is charged per order, which covers processing and delivery charges.

"Our prices are very competitive with local supermarkets because we don't have the overhead they do," says Gooch. Like supermarkets, E Z Pantry offers sales items and accepts manufacturers' coupons. "We want to make shopping with us similar to going to the grocery store, but more convenient."

While disabled customers and busy professionals also take advantage of E Z Pantry's convenient service, Gooch estimates about 75 percent of the company's sales are generated from the senior market. "In our area, where there just weren't resources set up to service this senior segment of the population, word-of-mouth advertising about our business has just spread like wildfire," says Gooch. "Hospitals, social service departments and other organizations are just chomping at the bit to have some sort of resource to give their patients."

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Smart Picks Part I.

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