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Life begins at 50, says consumer survey

Vandana Ramnani in New Delhi | September 01, 2004

Life's little luxuries -- dining out with the family, a game of night golf, trip to Bahamas or a drive down the countryside -- are no longer the domain of those in their thirties.

For, the so-called elderly do not think twice these days about going out and enjoying life's hard earned pleasures.

The latest annual consumer survey by KSA Technopak, a management consultancy firm, terms this nearly 9 million strong group of those in their 50s and 60s as 'arrived veterans' and rightly so.

India's 'baby boomers' or the segment generally born between 1943-53 consists of those who are fast approaching retirement, they could be CEOs who have climbed the ladder of success by getting timely increments and wish to enjoy the last mile.

They are the ones who have actually toiled to make it big, are now reaping the benefits and wish to upgrade in terms of a new sedan, a luxury house or maybe a club membership.

It includes people who have fulfilled most of their family obligations such as children's marriages and studies and are through with big investments such as a car and a house.

Many of them may also be having one of their wards studying or working abroad. This is thus a segment which is economically independent, compared to their own parents, and has the expendable cash to spend.

This also makes them a perfect consumer segment for a large number of high-end products and services such as luxurious apartments complete with clubs and entertainment activities, travel, insurance, investment products and medical policies, says Vatsala Mishra, Consultant, KSA Technopak.

According to the survey which covered 20 towns and 10,000 consumers whose average income was between Rs 10,000 and Rs 12,000 per month, 'arrived veterans' are those who are typically urban, have arrived in life and are upwardly mobile.

Their big spends include education, higher studies, house, marriage of their children. They spend most on apparel, gifts, jewellery, savings and investment, eating out and vacationing. They dream of graduating to a bigger house and owning a luxury sedan.

Owners of luxury apartments are largely people in the late 50s. Their profile is generally that of businessman, industrialists who have established themselves in their career and life, substantial number have made it in life, arrived as it were, they have a house but at this age are looking at luxury apartments, says Kunal Banerjee, a real estate developer.

The highest expenditure pertains to utilities such as groceries, health is a big priority in this age group as this is the age during which diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure creep in. Some also look at future investments as their steady source of income after retirement. This age group is thus not as indulgent as teen segment, Mishra points out.

The survey found that the group is still not very credit friendly, not too much into the EMI bandwidth. EMI (equated monthly instalment) is a recent phenomenon, and doesn't excite them. Only 12 per cent take loans across 20 towns, says Mishra.

The consumer in this age group has slowly and steadily come to terms with the world full of choices even though for a majority of them technology is complex and multiplicity of product options in the market is terribly confusing.

However, pushed by aggressive marketers they are slowly trying to make sense of the new means of communications, entertainment and pastimes around them.

A combination of needs and desires is making people aged above 50 years buy mobile sets, computers, DVD players, flat screen TV sets and even internet connections.

The survey lists two sharply contrasting views among the senior population's spending habits when it comes to buying electronic products.

One portrays a group of modern, free-spending consumers whose ownership of home entertainment equipment and choices of entertainment options essentially mirror the rest of the adult population.

The other depicts a group of budget-conscious consumers who are significantly less interested than younger adults in modern technologies.

Also, they are also not that open when it comes to using mobile phones, internet etc though a vast section is adopting to such challenges out of necessity. A lot of them have Non-Resident Indian children and it is important to stay in touch with them by the cheapest means.

They usually shop for themselves and for the house. According to a study 'Wallet Watch' conducted by AC Nielsen ORG-MARG, a leading market research firm, on urban spending patterns, older consumers spend more on food and grocery items.

Spends on private transportation and communication through traditional means like landline phones is also more.

Spends on newer communication technologies -- like mobile telephony is relatively lesser than that by the rest of the population (Rs 537 per month compared to Rs 608).

Also, spends on leisure activities like out of home entertainment and vacations is lower, but spends on books, magazines, et cetera is higher.

Spends on jewellery are slightly more too (Rs 5,861 as opposed to Rs 5,681) in a year in any other home.

Expectedly, this segment shows higher expenditure on medical products and services. On an average, an older household spends around Rs 3,083 in a year on medical expenses compared to Rs 2,137 in other households.

Shopper Trends, another study on shopping habits by AC Nielsen ORG-MARG, shows that more visits to druggists and western pharmacies are from this segment.

The study also found that older consumers continue to prefer traditional format stores. Visits to modern trade outlets are significantly lower than that by the younger age groups. Visits to hypermarts, supermarkets and other modern format stores are also much lesser.

Overall, consumers from the older age groups tend to spend more on home and health and are still a little conservative while splurging on entertainment and leisure. In terms of spending modes, openness to EMIs is low.

Does this mean, therefore, that marketers should continue to focus their energies on chasing the youth? The answer is not a simple yes or no.

Of course the category a marketer operates in is critical, but some of the surprises are worth taking note of: for example, home improvement.

And while the general trend in the market is that of 'downageing' -- people getting younger in their consumption pattern and youth being celebrated -- one cannot ignore this very important segment whose numbers are seen rising in the next 25 years.

It is certainly worth examining this group as a hitherto unexplored opportunity, says Sangeeta Gupta, Director, Client Service, AC Nielson ORG-MARG.

"Products should be designed to better fulfil the needs of this age group; it is for marketers to find out what appeals to them more, examine issues such as what are 'empathisable' depictions in advertising -- those that capture the feeling of being young, the relevant expressions of achievement and success, parenting concerns and challenges," she adds.

Life for the boomers has thus begins at fifty. Now that the kids are away it's party time for old folks.

-- PTI

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