High Streets missing the mark for over 55s

19th December 2023 | Phoebe Dobke

A recent survey by CACI revealed a disconnect between the offerings of local high streets and the preferences of residents aged over 55. Despite being generally content with local services and leisure options, this demographic overwhelmingly desires a shift towards shops catering to their tastes and spending habits.

The demand for improved retail options is particularly pronounced in the Northeast, with an astounding 64% of over-55s seeking more stores they favour. This sentiment echoes across other regions, with 62% in Scotland, 61% in Wales, and 60% in the Southeast expressing similar desires.

Interestingly, affluence doesn’t seem to be a major factor in this trend. Across different Acorn groups representing older demographics, a majority voiced a lack of desired retail options: 63% of “mature success”, 68% of “constrained pensioners”, 61% in “semi-rural maturity”, and 52% of “stable seniors”.

In contrast, local services like pharmacies, doctors, libraries, and opticians appear to be meeting the needs of over-55s, with only a quarter of “constrained pensioners” and “semi-rural maturity” groups, and slightly higher percentages for “stable seniors” and “mature success”, requesting more such options.

Leisure options also rank low on the desired improvements list, with only around 11-22% across Acorn groups feeling a lack in this area. This suggests that for over-55s, the high street primarily serves a shopping function, unlike younger generations who view it more as a social or entertainment hub.

Hannah Smith, a Principal Consultant at CACI, commented on the findings: “High streets are undergoing a major transformation, with landlords grappling with balancing retail, leisure, services, food and beverage, and civic functions in response to evolving visitor needs. It’s intriguing to discover that most over-55s feel their retail preferences are being overlooked. For this generation, the high street remains primarily a shopping destination, contrasting with younger demographics who seek a more social or entertainment-oriented experience.”

Smith further highlighted the importance of understanding the specific needs and brand preferences of different demographics, particularly the “grey pound” with its significant spending power. She emphasized that while leisure, services, and food and beverage play crucial roles in a thriving high street, ensuring the right retail mix to entice all visitor segments is paramount.

“In today’s dynamic environment, striking the right balance in offerings and tailoring the brand mix accordingly are key to engaging the entire visitor community,” concluded Smith.


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