The population is getting older, yet looking younger. Are the needs of mature shoppers being met?

Why are supermarket parking bays allocated to the disabled and to often perfectly able-bodied mothers with children, but not to pensioners?
The question highlights a peculiar dilemma facing older shoppers. In the era of enfranchisement for all sorts of minority groups, the over-60s seem to have been overlooked.
As advertising agencies produce ever more youth-focused campaigns seemingly only targeting older customers with products promising to make them look younger, the supermarkets appear to be guilty of a similar age-related myopia.
Car parking is just one bugbear for older shoppers, according to a survey of 1,400 over-50s carried out for The Grocer by Millennium, an advertising and communications group for the mature market. More than one in three respondents feel that supermarket and brand advertising is aimed specifically at younger people and only 2% feel that it is aimed directly at them.
They also criticise complicated and illogical store layouts and the lack of seating. Then there is the perennial irritation of user-unfriendly packaging and difficult-to-read typefaces.
Yet these age groups - and let's not forget this isn't one amorphous group, but several different generations - are among the most affluent shoppers.
Almost one in three spend more than £60 a week on grocery shopping and 7% spend more than £100, according to the survey.
They're adventurous: 88% say they would be prepared to buy a product that they did not normally buy if they sampled it in-store and liked it.
And they're just as likely as anyone else to be interested in a good deal, with 88% saying that they actively look out for buy-one-get-one-free offers on their shopping trips. So why aren't their needs being fully met?
It's not entirely the fault of the multiples or the brands. Just as the media have become obsessed with youth, so has the general public.
The youngest group in the mature market were teenagers in the 1960s and many would cheerfully admit that they are clinging on to middle-age youth. They certainly don't want to have attention drawn to their age with services or products aimed overtly at them. It is not surprising that the classless supermarket pioneered by Tesco is evolving into an ageless one.
Unfortunately, trying to be sensitive to older shoppers' feelings by perpetuating the myth of an ageless society has its pitfalls - and not just for the shopper.
Multiples and manufacturers are neither meeting older shoppers' needs nor grasping the opportunities that older shoppers represent, believes Millennium director Kevin Lavery.
"There were two things that stood out for me in this research," he says. "One is the claptrap that advertising executives like to perpetuate: that if you target your marketing to over-35s it won't work. It's complete bunkum. Empirical evidence suggests the opposite.
"The other issue is that sampling really works for this generation."
He argues that older shoppers are more than willing to try new products and are strongly influenced by TV ad campaigns and in-store promotions, but can feel alienated by many campaigns.
"Thirty years ago, it was right to be youth-focused. That is no longer the case. However, it has to be done sensitively," he says, pointing to the success of Marks & Spencer's TV ad campaign featuring Twiggy and other top models of the past 40 years. "The point is that it is inclusive."
Another issue the survey highlights is that 52% of older shoppers would like to be able to buy smaller pack sizes. Store layout and ranging could also be improved fairly easily, suggests Lavery.
In short, there is a massive - and growing - opportunity that has yet to be fully understood or tapped into by the major multiples.
Over-50s wield an annual £2.5bn of spending power, Lavery points out. There are 20 million over-50s in the UK, a figure that is expected to increase 30% within 15 years. Conversely, the number of under-50s is expected to decline.
A 'one age fits all' approach is clearly not going to work.
Liz Hamson reports
Three shoppers from the Bradford area - one in her 50s, another in his 60s and one in her 70s - give their views on the whole supermarket shopping experience
Shopping habits of the over-50s
Debbie Buttle, 50, lives with her husband in Idle. "I would try sample products if they were offered. I go for things I see on TV and always look for two-for-one deals. I'm not interested in own brand or value ranges. I can't think there would be anything nice about them. I'd rather pay the extra and have quality. I can't say I'm impressed with Tesco; Asda I do like, but it doesn't have a big range; and Sainsbury I find expensive. I don't like Morrisons' fruit and veg, but the fish counter is excellent. My spending has gone up because I tend to buy more at the supermarket than in the past - personal care products, for example. There's little point in going to Superdrug now."Barry Robinson, 65 next month, lives with his wife in Frizinghall. "I go shopping every day. I like to get fresh stuff. I know where the prices are keenest and the quality is best. The local Morrisons has always been good, the Asda is quite small and the Tesco has improved - it's bigger. There's also a Sainsbury, which can be quite nice for a change. We don't look for small packs. We'll just cook something bigger. What annoys me is the trolley bays: there aren't enough. I'd quite like to see allocated parking for older shoppers and more in-store sampling. My generation tries new things all the time. It's the younger generation that is stuck in its ways with its love of fast food." Daphne Couplan, 79, lives with her husband in Saltaire. "I shop at Asda in Shipley and Tesco on the outskirts of Bradford. With every supermarket you've got to learn the layout and it can be frustrating. When the Tesco was enlarged they handed out maps. But the staff are always incredibly helpful both there and in Asda. I tend to do a big shop once a week so use a trolley. It's quite a comfort to lean on when you need a rest, but I'd welcome more seating in the store. One thing that annoys me is that everything is so over-packed. I think most products are accessible, though resealable bags never are. I look for things I can buy in bulk. I also buy 95% of my make-up in Tesco."
1 How often do you shop? (%)One big shop a week, topped up 63As the need arises 20Two or three small shops a week 172 Do you prefer to shop at supermarkets or independents? (%)Supermarkets 92Independents 83 If you could shop at any store, which would it be? (%)Tesco 29Sainsbury 17Asda 17Waitrose 15Morrisons 14Co-ops 2Aldi 2Somerfield 1Netto 1Other 24 How much do you spend on your grocery shopping a week? (%)Under £19 7£20 to £39 29£40 to £59 34£60 to £99 23£100 plus 75 Which age group do you think supermarkets are targeting? (%)All age groups 68My age group 21Younger age groups 11 6 Do they value older shoppers? (%)To some degree/yes 87No 137 Do you buy clothing at supermarkets? (%)Sometimes/often 58Never 428 Do you buy electrical goods at supermarkets? (%)Sometimes 67Never 339 How do you think supermarkets could be improved? You can give more than one answer (%)Smaller pack sizes 52Cheaper prices 45More in-store promotions 39Better quality food 33Healthier food 33Better layout 32Better range & signage 27Better service 2410 What do you think of packaging of grocery items? You can give more than one answer (%)There's too much of it 72It should be easier to open 54It should have bigger print 23It does not need changing 1111 Do you think that supermarket and brand advertising are aimed at a specific age group? (%)No 63Younger age groups 35My age group 212 What type of in-store promotions are valuable to you? You can give more than one answer (%)Buy-one-get-one-free offers 88Three-for-two offers 37Other types of discount 3Free loyalty card points 6None 913 How likely are you to try new brands? (%)Very/somewhat 88Not 1214 What would prompt you to try a new brand? You can give more than one answer(%)Vouchers 62Word of mouth 50Promotions 47TV advertising 27Newspaper/magazine advertising 17E-mail promotions 13Direct mail 13Radio advertising 315 Do you use supermarket delivery services? (%)Yes 19No 66No, but I might in the future 1516 Have you bought a product you have sampled? (%)Yes 78No 2217 Have you made repeat purchases after sampling a product? (%)Yes 81No 1918 Do you like supermarkets offering financial services? (%)Yes 18No 39No opinion 43