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Retailers ‘missing out’ on lucrative over-55s

Clothing retailers are failing to meet the needs of shoppers aged 55 and over despite the demographic being one of the fastest growing in the UK, new research has found.

The 55-plus market was worth £5.4bn in 2008 and expenditure in the sector is set to rocket 18% by 2014, ahead of a forecast 7% growth in the number of people aged over 55 to 18.6 million during the same period, according to the Over-55s Fashion Market Intelligence report by Mintel.

As the average age of retirement for women is set to increase to 65 by 2020, the post-war baby boomers will have an increasingly stable rate of income, further increasing the power of the grey pound.

However, some 44% of shoppers aged 55 and over felt neglected by the high street, according to Mintel, saying that “clothes stores only target young people”, while almost half of those surveyed said there were “few” clothing shops on the high street they enjoyed visiting.

Some 60% of respondents said their favourite retail destination was Marks & Spencer – which targeted the mature customer with the launch of casual womenswear range Portfolio in January – followed by George at Asda, Bhs and Debenhams. Primark and Next were the least favoured stores, reflecting their focus on a younger target customer.

However, retailers still have some way to go to engage the 55-plus shopper, as more than half of the market said they had little or no interest in shopping.

Only 17% of the men and women polled said they were intent on following the latest trends, but claimed their attempts to do so were being thwarted by the lack of options to fit and flatter their figures.

However, while the majority of 55-plus shoppers said they bought clothes for comfort rather than style, the number that prioritised comfort steadily shrunk in the past six years. It is expected to continue to decline as future generations lean towards fashion-led purchases.

Coats and raincoats across menswear and womenswear in the over-55s market showed the strongest growth over the past two years, with sales up 5% in 2009 against 2007. Skirt sales experienced the biggest decline over the period, down 5% as dresses grew in popularity.

Mintel fashion analyst Katrin Magnussen said: “Some retailers are too old-fashioned, while some are too young, with many misreading the market. The over-55s are much younger at heart than their parents’ generation. Both men and women want clothes that flatter them and there is a limited selection.”n

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