On The Retail Level: For The Aging Boomer, Smaller Can Sometimes Be Better

by , Jun 23, 2011, 12:36 PM
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Trend watchers have noted that after decades in which stores kept growing larger in size and selection of product offerings, smaller footprints are suddenly becoming more popular. These appeal to the mature market by signaling "fresh" and "trendy" without meaning "pricey," and they provide a more personal shopping experience -- without all the walking.

Let's face it. In an age of "bigger is better," the aging population is having issues navigating stores with large footprints and being overwhelmed by a multitude of SKUs. The emerging trend provides a more personal shopping experience and allows for less time spent in the store.

Grocery & Pharmacy

A prime example can be found in Berlin, Germany's senior-targeted Kaiser Senioren, a store that features Oldies music, non-slip floors, extra-wide aisles and checkouts, bright overhead lighting, shelves fitted with steps and magnifying glasses, talking produce scales, and light, easy-to-maneuver carts fitted with adult-size seats. Call buttons alert the staff if a customer needs personal assistance or is not feeling well. Best of all, patrons can enjoy a relaxing end-of-shopping massage in a "chill-out" room.

UK-based grocery retailer Tesco is also gaining insight into the mature market with its Seniors Supermarket. It moved into the U.S. market in 2007 with 167 of its Fresh & Easy small-format grocery stores -- a format that seems tailored to the needs of the mature market.

While typical U.S. grocery retailers sell approximately 50,000 SKUs, Trader Joe's stands apart with its "less is more" strategy, carrying approximately 4,000 items in its 344 stores. Offering high-quality products and fewer choices has had a positive effect on sales and has attracted shoppers of all ages. The key to making every SKU work hard is assuring exceptional quality. The company invests heavily in procuring outstanding products and empowering its product developers (or top buyers) to set trends rather than follow them.

Mega-retailer Walmart, known for its typical 195,000-square-foot layout, has launched four smaller prototypes called Marketside, which average 15,000 square feet in size and sell primarily fresh food. The company also operates nearly 200 Neighborhood Market by Walmart stores, which cover 42,000 square feet and feature fresh food, pharmacy, beauty, stationery and pet supply products. Recently, the chain began its "Pick Up Today" program, which allows customers to order online and pick up a few hours later, as directed by a text message or email.

Drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens are resetting counters to a manageable height, replacing bright, shiny floors with carpeting and hanging magnifiers from shelves so shoppers can read the fine print on packaging.

Hardware & DIY

Retailers such as Ace and True Value Hardware still provide the "family-feel" customer service and manageable store sizes that are appreciated by the mature market. Some of the most popular items at these stores are used for leisure-time activities favored by older Boomers such as gardening, furniture refinishing, and, yes, bird watching.

According to Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, offering high-quality products and fewer choices has a positive effect on sales. Consumers are more likely to buy if they're reassured they're making a good choice, a choice they won't regret later. They'll accept fewer choices if they trust that those few items will be exceptionally good.

What Can You Do?

Some steps manufacturers, retailers and marketers can take to attract (and keep) the aging Boomer customer include the following:

  • Provide shipper units that require less square footage and drive impulse purchases
  • Develop products that are:

- Easy to stack
- Easy to access
- Easy to remove from a shelf

  • Consider ways to break large common areas into smaller, more intimate spaces
  • Focus promotions to drive mature consumers to smaller-footprint stores that meet their needs
  • Partner with smaller-footprint retailers for account-specific programs, displays, demos and other promotional initiatives.

0 comments on "On The Retail Level: For The Aging Boomer, Smaller Can Sometimes Be Better ".

  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: June 23, 2011 at 3:47 p.m.

    Trader Joe's is the best. However, households still need to suppliment with regular supermarkets and/or big box stores. The Trader Joe's closest to me has a wonderful farmer's market next door and they both are usually very busy. Plus there is a new organic produce store down the block along with 4 large markets within 1/2 mile plus sundry other food stores. The area has a whole neighborhoody feel and many 60+ people. Perhaps, it is more than one store in an area that attracts particular shoppers.

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