How Retailers Have Turned the Boomer Woman Into the Ideal Multichannel Shopper
VibrantNation.com is the leading online community for baby boomer women, a site where they connect on issues unique to their stage of life. After more than two years of asking them to explain what that lifestage means, I can report one nearly uniform emotion they all share: they hate shopping in retail stores.
The primary reason? Sales associates treat them as invisible. Eighty-five percent of boomer women said in a recent survey my firm conducted that they were unhappy with the quality of retail sales associates. Almost one out of three agreed with the following statement: "Sales associates don't really understand why they should pay attention to anyone older than they are."
There are other reasons that make boomer women hate retail shopping, especially for clothes. Retailers rarely carry the clothes that boomer women tell us they want — age-appropriate but stylish clothes, larger sizes, even tailored petites. What's more, the retailers that do gain traction with these women (e.g., Talbots or Eileen Fisher) often rush to abandon them when they fear that they're losing appeal with younger women. Is there any hope?
It's Not Too Late To Mend Traditional Retail
Boomer women are important shoppers. They shop when they want and are willing to pay more for quality. Retailers who care to win this consumer need to train their salespeople better. They must also stock not only larger sizes, but clothes that fit the different body shape of a post-menopausal woman. Saks, Macy's and Nordstrom are doing a better-than-average job at serving this vibrant woman, but others should join their ranks.
At a session I recently moderated at the National Retail Federation's (NRF) BIG Show, Lois Joy Johnson, author and former fashion and beauty editor of More, gave retailers a few keys to improve their offerings for boomer women. Among them: "If you can supply the right pants and jacket, you're more likely to sell her other clothes, too. Also, a little trendiness goes a long way. Keep the styles the same, but tweak the proportions to adapt to this year's styles." If you're willing to spend half-an-hour talking to women over 50, this isn't a revelation.