Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Indies' vision of age before beauty

The over-fifties are a spending phenomenon, says Curtis Jacoby. so why does the media not see it?

The years are beginning to take their toll on me, according to my optician. I am now the self-conscious owner of a surprisingly expensive pair of reading spectacles. Given my record of losing sunglasses, I hope this is not the start of a transfer of funds to the ophthalmic industry. Nevertheless, wear them I must, even though at the moment I feel like John-Boy Walton from TV show The Waltons each time I hook them over my ears to read or write.

Ivanna, the young, tall, blonde optical technician with the eastern European accent, looked deep into my eyes and suggested I try bifocals. I explained that as a newcomer to spectacles I had first to overcome the blow to my vanity, and hang the inconvenience of having to take them off to see anything beyond four feet away (and no, I wasn't interested in buying a neck chain). So here I am, slowly getting accustomed to belonging to the estimated 60% of the population that needs help from opticians.

Meanwhile, the past weeks have seen a flurry of amazing statistics about our changing lifestyles. The first involved the personal 'footprint' that we all leave during our time on earth. Apart from all the usual stuff, such as packaging and waste, it turns out that on average we each spend about £350 per year on clothes. This seems a tiny amount. With a Kate Moss Topshop dress costing up to £195, two pairs of jeans at £60 each and a couple of £15 vests, shoppers in last week's celebrity frenzy would have spent a year's budget in the 20 minutes and five pieces per person allowed in the Kate Moss shopping experience.

The more interesting set of figures came from commercial think-tank The Future Foundation, and looks at today's over-fifties. This group spends more time shopping each week than the typical 16- to 24-year-old; they also travel more, exercise more and spend more than the over-fifties who were around in the 1950s did.

After years of having to put up with the media's obsession with youth, it seems shop owners are also fighting back and addressing the market they know will bring results. Jaeger and Allders have shown that fashion and the 50-plus woman don't have to be uneasy partners.

The indies own this turf and know the customer inside out. But now that some larger players are on the field, perhaps the national consumer press will widen its horizons to include coverage more relevant to the 40% of women over 50.

Regional county magazines have long recognised the relevance of mid-market brands to their readers, as well as their advertiser base of independent retailers. But will fashion editors on national glossies follow their lead and inform their 50-plus readers without relying on celebrity worship to fill their pages?

In The Waltons, Ike Godsey - the owner of John-Boy Walton's local store - probably didn't sell ready-to-wear, but he knew his customers by name. That personal touch alone would be enough to encourage life-long patronage by today's baby boomers.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.