A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
Is Your Business "ZOOMER"
Nine ways to make your store more
convenient for older customers.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (March 21, 2011)
We were walking through the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and
Casino one morning when we stopped to watch a group of 50-something
women try to navigate their way down the cobblestone streets. They
weren’t just getting in from a long night of Las Vegas night life,
they were on their way to a conference, and were merely trying their
best not to catch a heel and lose their balance on the uneven
flooring. We've seen this happen on more than one occasion, and
apparently so has the hotel, because posted at each entrance is a
classy brass sign warning guests about the possible hazards of the
This observation led to a lengthy discussion on one
of our favorite topics: are our businesses and products ready for
the hordes of aging American consumers, each with unique special
needs and physical limitations to be considered, who shop in our
stores, and use our products and services? It’s a funny thing: We
can talk about this topic all day long – it was first incorporated
into our presentations in 1992 – and yet we’re not seeing too many
businesses making dramatic changes.
Boomers to "ZOOMERS"
People over 50 aren't old; they’re in the prime of
their lives. They are healthy and happy, and far richer than any
other generation. This new generation – a combination of 76 million
Baby Boomers and the 64 million people of retirement age and better
– have a new name: they’ve been coined "The Zoomers." Zoomers
control more than 70% of the wealth in the U.S., and according to a
survey by WSL Strategic Retail, shoppers aged 55 to 70 are "heavy
shoppers," making four or more shopping trips a week. These two
facts alone should make every retailer sit up and take notice.
According to Ken Dychtwald, PhD, founder and
president of Age Wave, as the Baby Boomers pass through their middle
years, and on to maturity (the first Boomers began to turn 60 in
2006), several key factors will reshape consumer supply and demand.
These factors include a concern about the onset of chronic disease,
their desire to postpone physical aging, and entry into new adult
life stages. And there are two more factors Dr. Dychtwald says will
have a direct impact on your cash register.
It’s a "good news/bad news" scenario. The good news:
Boomers are experiencing a psychological shift away from acquiring
more material possessions toward a desire to purchase enjoyable and
satisfying experiences. The bad news: You'll have to work harder to
attract them as the absence of "disposable time" continues to
complicate their lifestyles. Here’s the bottom line: You have a
tremendous opportunity ahead of you if your products and services
cater to the needs of the discretionary dollar-rich Zoomers.
A Store That's Ready
Adeg Aktiv Markt is a wonderful example of a retailer
who is doing just that. Adeg is an Austrian supermarket chain that
recently launched a supermarket footprint designed specifically for
older shoppers (older shopper being defined as those aged 50 and
better.) At Adeg’s Aktiv Markt, customers enjoy larger parking
spaces, larger price labels, wider aisles, floors that are non-skid
even when wet, plenty of places to sit down, even shopping carts
with built-in seats so shoppers can relax whenever and wherever they
like. They even have brakes to keep them steady while loading the
car. Customers can reach for one of the magnifying glasses hanging
from chains in the grocery aisles and dairy cases, or even borrow a
pair of reading glasses to make shopping easier when they forget
Adeg is quick to point out that their Aktiv Markt is
not a store for old people; it's a store for discerning shoppers.
This makes perfect sense. Parents juggling children while trying to
shop and customers with armloads of product will appreciate these
extra conveniences as well. Your business should be ready for
discerning Zoomer customers, too. Here is a checklist of things to
1. If you have a retail
store or showroom, be sure to place product at more easily reachable
heights. And if you have 84” shelves, as many retailers do,
instruct store associates to be on the lookout for customers trying
to get at product they can’t reach, and help them accordingly. Try
to save the very top shelves for back-up merchandise.
2. Presbyopia, a disease
that affects our ability to see clearly up close, kicks in at around
age 40. Those Zoomers checking out your product, or wandering your
sales floor, may be missing key product detail. We recommend that
you have reading glasses in various magnifications available for
customers to use on the honor system.
3. If large numbers of
customers need reading glasses, then it’s safe to say that large
numbers also wear bifocal glasses. When you wear bi-focals, you have
to choose which part of the lenses to look through. The top part
helps you see far away and the bottom helps you see close up. This
means that at any given time, half of your display is out of focus
to these customers. Cruise your store/product/showroom to look for
important product that needs to be moved to a different location on
4. Pump up the type size
currently used on signing, brochures, newsletters, and other
point-of-purchase (POP) materials. These materials are designed to
help customers make good purchasing decisions when an associate is
not available to help out. If they can’t read the materials, no one
5. As we age, it gets
harder to adapt to different lighting. We’ve been in too many
businesses that are unbelievably dark. This makes it tough for
anyone to see, and tougher still for aging eyes that need 2–3 times
more light to see as clearly as younger eyes. Yet, lights that are
too bright can also cause problems for Zoomers. If you are not sure
where you stand lumen-wise, consider calling in a lighting
professional to help you out.
6. Everyone loves a shiny
floor, but shiny floors scream trouble for older Zoomers who do not
want to risk a fall on what appears to be a slippery surface. When
it comes time to replace your flooring, consider one made from
7. Do you have doorknobs or
handles? A large percentage of Zoomers will have some sort of
arthritis. It’s much easier for them to operate a handle versus a
knob. This is a quick fix; door knobs are easy to replace.
8. Zoomers have plenty of
expertise – don’t let their knowledge and talent go to waste! The
Millennials (18–29) are on track to mimic their grandparents' values
and beliefs. One of our favorite retailers takes advantage of the
relationship between these two generations. On Saturday afternoons,
a grandmotherly woman sits in a rocking chair near the store’s front
door, knitting. The plump cushions strewn at her feet are always
filled with children (and sometimes their parents) learning to knit.
Brainstorm ways you could put Zoomers' expertise to work in your own
9. Put Zoomers on your
payroll. If your customers are older, it just makes sense that some
of your associates should be as well. Zoomers feel a little more
comfortable working with people their own age.
Now, about this aging thing that none of us are too
fond of: John, Paul, George, and Ringo put it all in perspective
when they sang, "When I get older, losing my hair, Many years from
now, Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings,
bottle of wine? If I’d been out ‘till quarter to three, Would you
lock the door? Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When
(Editor's note: Here's a quote we like:
"Inside every old person is a young person asking, 'What the hell
A Note from Georganne & Rich:
March 30 we’re representing ourselves both as consumers, and as the
Baby Boomer generation as a whole, on a panel discussion that also
includes a Millennial and a couple of Generation Xers. The audience
will be comprised of CEOs and executives from retail and consumer
packaged goods Fortune 500 companies. It should be fun… it’s
certainly different from our usual modus operandi!
(Note: Meetings & Conventions
magazine took a survey of meeting planners asking them to name their
favorite speakers/keynote presenters – and Kizer & Bender make the
list, along with such luminaries as Dr. Stephen R. Covey, Mike Ditka,
Bill Gates, Rudy Giuliani, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jay Leno, Colin
Powell, and others.
To read previous columns, click on the titles in the right-hand
KIZER & BENDER Speaking!
Keynotes | Seminars | Consulting | Store Design
103 North 11th Ave., Ste. 206,
St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Phone: 630-513-8020 | 24/7 Mobile: 708-347-2682 Fax: 630-513-8098
COPYRIGHT KIZER & BENDER 2009. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED