The high-street and the older shopper
In many areas we have witnessed the demise of the high street during the economic downturn – this coupled with an increase in online shopping means that the future of the high street seems to be hanging in the balance. So with the older consumer in mind at a recent Age UK Engage Business Network seminar, we examined whether the high street in its traditional format can, or should, survive and what the alternatives are.
Our research shows that social interaction is important to the older shopper: 60% of people aged 50+ would visit their high street more often if it offered more social opportunities. Having local amenities and services on the doorstep is a major advantage, so turning high streets into community hubs offering health, fitness and public services could be the next logical step for some of our ailing towns. And with people aged over 50 controlling £307 billion worth of spending a year and making up the fastest growing demographic, it needs to be done innovatively, delivering on quality and service to meet the needs of all customers including the ageing population.
Gym chain and Age UK Engage member David Lloyd is already leading the way: they’ve just opened studio gyms in central Winchester and Putney. Once boarded up and ugly, these outlets are now offering a viable and beneficial service to the local community as well as an easy way to get fit and active on the doorstep. And it’s not just retailers that are adapting, Planners and Local Authorities are re-assessing policies to allow these kinds of services to open instead of the more typical retail outlets. This is an innovative step in the right direction to make our high streets more appealing and usable to all consumers, whatever their age.
With the help of guest speakers we came to the following conclusions at our recent seminar:
- The high street needs to reinvent itself if it is to have a long-term future
- Retailers must manage their own destiny and bring their stores to life
- Creating the conditions in which high streets can flourish is the challenge we now face
Now is a key turning point for the high street and if major retailers and local businesses can get it right then town centres have a strong chance of boosting their local economies. Retailers need to adapt to the rapid and significant changes that are being driven by consumer behaviour and understand shoppers’ needs – including the importance to older customers of being able to socialise and shop.
Ian Rutter, Senior Manager, Age UK’s Engage Business Network
Age UK’s Engage Business Network shares knowledge and insight with the business community and looks at what the ageing process means for business best practice.