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The boomer revolution and how it will affect retailing


In the 1960s, baby boomers changed the world. In their 60s, they just may do it again.

The baby boom generation is now the mainstream, and the upcoming documentary "The Boomer Revolution" airing Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC Television's Doc Zone takes a look at how boomers–more than 10 million altogether, most in their 50s and 60s is hitting "the Golden Years" at the same time that life expectancy has gone up by more than 30 years in the last century.

What will all those baby boomers do with all those extra years? Canadian Grocer talked with the documentary's filmmaker Sue Ridout about how this bulging consumer group will impact grocery.

Canadian Grocer: Why did you decide to do a documentary on Boomers? Why do grocery retailers and food manufacturers need to pay attention to this group?

Sue Ridout: We decided to do a documentary about baby boomers because we were very surprised to read that life expectancy is increasing two to two-and-a-half years with every passing decade. That has huge implications for aging and retirement.The 1960s notion of a “Golden Years” kind of retirement is very dated and hasn’t really been replaced by a new vision.

In the old days, people retired at 65 but were often dead by 70. Now, they may retire at 65 but can expect to live to 85. So what will they do with that longevity bonus? They have 35 more spending years than they would have had a century ago.

In the doc, we see the consumer spending power of boomers. How are marketers and product manufacturers having to adjust?

Boomers are very concerned with their health, both physical and mental.  They know that all those extra years of life expectancy won’t be valuable unless they’re in good health, so they’re doing everything they can to take their youth with them into old age.  They read packaging closely and are savvy about false product claims.

But most boomers aren’t just buying for themselves. The reason they control two-thirds of consumer spending power is because they’re also buying for their elderly parents, for their children, for their grandchildren.

Some marketers have assumed that most boomers are empty nesters and that they need to be targeting them with single-serve packaging or high-end products in small quantities.  But most boomers still have dependents and single-serve luxury products aren’t necessarily what they’re looking for.

In housing, the film shows boomers' desire not to downsize, but rather to continue to live in big suburban houses. How will this have an impact on retailers, especially grocery stores, when these boomers can't drive anymore?

About 25 per cent of boomers are downsizing and buying condos, which often means they’re becoming more urban and are within walking distance of shops.  But the rest are not selling their houses, or are selling and buying similar size or even larger houses.
survey released this week supports this.>

This is because many boomers are still housing adult children–the boomerang kid phenomenon–and others want to continue to have big living and dining areas for all the gatherings they host of their extended families.

It’s predicted that the peak of the boomer housing sell-off is still 20 years away, because the boomer population peak was in 1961 so those boomers are still only in their early 50s.  Those boomers are going to continue to drive to the store for many years to come.

Watch the trailer here:

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