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Seniority Rules

Appealing to the over-65 crowd
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This story appears in the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
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According to the Census Bureau, people age 65 and older now make up 12 percent of the population but account for more than 48 percent of discretionary purchases. So how can you make your store senior-friendly?

Candace Corlett, director of the 50+ Marketing Directions Service at WSL Strategic Retail, a marketing consulting firm in New York City, cautions entrepreneurs who might be considering putting resting chairs in their stores or a cozy gray-haired couple in their ads. "We are in a new age of aging," she says. "Marketers need to show people as they want to be seen, full of vitality and reflecting their realistic aspirations."

It is true, however, that seniors have different preferences. They are more likely to view shopping as a social event and, therefore, are often better browsers than buyers. But they're also more likely to buy when they get to interact with a salesperson of a similar age. In other words, hiring an 18-year-old, gum-chewing cashier is probably not the way to go. Other tools that work for the senior crowd include clear, in-store signage and accurate depictions of seniors in realistic settings in point-of-purchase materials.

Recent research supports an interesting fact among seniors: They tend to be extremely brand-loyal. In other words, once you get senior customers, you should work hard to keep them.

Edition: May 2017

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