HomeBussinessSilver service – Retailers must adapt to cater for our ageing population

Silver service – Retailers must adapt to cater for our ageing population


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As the number of Irish people over 65 grows, it makes sense for stores to tailor their offerings

At a European level, the “silver economy” is set to represent more than 35pc of spending consumption by 2030. Given this exponential growth, meeting the needs of our senior shoppers should be a key focus area for all Irish retailers. How can this be achieved in a proactive manner?


Ageing consumers may often have reduced mobility, so retailers need to consider the accessibility of their stores. Are aisles wide enough for mobility aids? Are shelf heights suitable for best-sellers? Are there a range of smaller trolleys or wheeled baskets available? Are aisles clearly marked?

In conjunction with this, are staff trained and encouraged to support older customers. It seems like common sense, but in the fast-moving retail environment it sometimes needs to be reaffirmed.


As older customers evaluate their dietary requirements, many seek out more nutritionally enhanced foods.

We have seen a huge growth in protein-enhanced options in recent years – such as snack-bars and yoghurts – primarily aimed at sports people. I expect the focus of these products to be expanded to include older customers in the years ahead.

Given many are now only shopping for one or two people, smaller portion sizes need to be integrated within the wider in-store offering. Older consumers are seeking healthy food options that are suitably packaged, suitably sized, and freshly produced.

This presents a real opportunity, particularly for Irish family-owned grocery and convenience operators embedded within their communities nationwide.

Several European fashion retailers are utilising the renaissance of “pre-loved” and vintage clothing and accessories to engage with older customers, facilitating the exchange of unwanted wardrobe items for contemporary styles and ranges curated to reflect specific feedback from older customers.

This represents the epitome of a circular economy in action and the development of life-long customers. There is a real opportunity for a retailer to take first-mover advantage in this space in the Irish market.

Older consumers want healthy food options that are suitably packaged, suitably sized, and freshly produced. Photo: Getty

Community hub

Many stores provide a strong focal point for social engagement in their local communities. Numerous studies have demonstrated that this remains a key differentiator for older shoppers in choosing a preferred store.

A combination of a seating area or coffee dock along with relevant in-store services and brand extensions such as a post office or pharmacy can lay the foundations for the development of a community hub.

This can then be built upon with lifestyle options like yoga or music and book clubs.

A notable example of such an initiative is SuperValu’s sponsorship of the Tidy Towns – a social, worthwhile activity that in many communities is driven by retirees.

The international view

Major brands are revising their packaging to improve resealable packets to facilitate those seeking smaller portions and to help those with decreasing levels of dexterity.

Nestlé has undertaken work with Cambridge University to understand the challenges that many people experience when opening packaging and to develop solutions to overcome those challenges.

They used both a glove, which replicated the impact of arthritis, and goggles, which mimicked blurred vision to make it difficult to see different shades of colour during this inclusive process.

Major brands are revising their packaging to improve resealable packets

Adeg in Austria has been recognised for its innovation and commitment to supporting older customers. It introduced a range of simple changes which included widening aisles to accommodate mobility aids, adjusting lighting to suit older people’s eyesight, non-slip floors, and magnifying glasses to help read labels.

The positive results in sales performance and customer feedback across pilot stores led to a larger roll-out of these initiatives across the wider network.

Given its demographics, Japan has a very advanced model for supporting older customers.

Convenience store chain Lawson has added elderly care support services to some of their shops in Japan.

These centres include nursing care and general advice offering help with household administration like assistance with insurance quotes.

Research has indicated that customers are more comfortable when they can interact with these issues locally with people they know.

These stores also have large sections dedicated to vacuum-packed easy-to-chew meals and nursing care products geared towards the elderly.


While older shoppers did not not grow up surrounded by digital devices, in a post-Covid world they have become far more comfortable using technology.

There is a tendency in a sizeable proportion of the retail sector to focus social media and online content towards younger shoppers exclusively. This is a short-sighted approach that fails to reflect the reality of the market.

While older shoppers value in-store interaction, like all age categories they are increasingly using online channels to research, compare and engage with retailers nationwide.

There is a tendency to focus social media and online content towards younger shoppers exclusively

Indeed, research has indicated that their shopping needs being more consistent along with greater time flexibility means older consumers are better placed to avail of online delivery or click-and-collect options that suit their schedule.

Retail is awash with data. Proactively refining this will allow retailers to seamlessly tailor their offering for customers as they get older. It’s this type of customer intimacy that nurtures long-term loyalty.

Earning loyalty

Irish retailers are recognised internationally for their innovation and customer-centric approach. Taking time to evaluate if they meet the requirements of an ageing population makes sense from both a financial and corporate social responsibility perspective.

While older customers are more loyal and less inclined to switch shopping patterns, in an increasingly competitive environment this loyalty needs to be earned through a considered, personalised approach.

As Irish retailers seek to position their business for a sustainable future, one of life’s oldest adages rings true: “Listen to your elders.”

As they represent a growing proportion of our population, can they afford not to?

Owen Clifford is Head of Retail Sector at Bank of Ireland

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