4 May 2006

Mining the golden years [Business Week]

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The 50-plus market
The sight of customers tying themselves into knots is usually a spur for businesses to invent something better. Yet brands willfully ignore the frustration of a particular market segment, which is growing larger and wealthier each year.

The insults dealt casually to older consumers are numerous: websites that fly in the face of accessibility, packaging that is difficult to open, fiddly IT products that put fashion before easy use, portions that force aging singletons to buy meals designed for kids. Then there are the age-ghetto items, such as stair-lifts, which mainstream advertisers dispatched long ago to a no-man’s-land, sign-posted geriatric.

Today’s oldest consumers were born too early to benefit from the ongoing revolution. Fast-forward through a couple of decades and the world may look very different. The most successful businesses, in all likelihood, will appeal to age, not youth.

Society will change because of population aging. The baby-boom generation’s age now ranges from 42 to 60. As the demographic bulge works its way from mid to late life, businesses will be — as Dick Stroud, author of The 50-Plus Market, states — compelled by economic logic to shift their center of gravity from the younger generation to the older generation

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