French Catalogers Discover Robust 50+ Market
They are doing so through a series of niche catalogs and through the inclusion of special sections aimed at older people in general catalogs. The shift is based on marketing and demographic evidence. As in most industrially advanced countries, the number of seniors is growing rapidly and their purchasing power is far higher than the average.
The over 50 generation accounts for 35 percent of the French population today and is expected to reach 53 percent in 2020. Their purchasing power of 800 billion francs ($133.3 billion) is 25 percent higher than those under 50. They control 43 percent of French disposable income, a figure expected to pass 50 percent in 2005.
They are brand loyal but dislike being categorized as old. They prefer a strong offer tied to effectiveness, health and quality and insist on added value and services such as home delivery of products.
They want to know about the benefits of products they buy far more than they do any discourse on gadgetry. They believe quality tends to cost more and are willing to pay more for products they buy - 15 percent more for beauty creams and 6 percent more for textiles, for example.
Seniors are active consumers across a number of markets, ranging from personal and household needs to beauty aids, quality of life and leisure.
They have become more diet conscious. A recent study showed that 90 percent of women and 59 percent of men between 50 and 60 ate a balanced diet and bought products that allowed them to do so.
They also are a good market for health products such as herbal capsules and non-prescription drugs that prevent digestive problems.
Most older women in France buy beauty creams and half of these creams are designed to fight wrinkles. Another study found senior expenditures for hygienic products were 10 percent higher than average.
French seniors tend to buy far more apparel by mail than the national average, and since two-thirds of them are home owners, they buy disproportionately larger quantities of home and garden products.
French direct marketers have used this data to frame offers and niche catalogs at senior consumers.
Some catalogs aim at the ailments and infirmities of old age, selling products to help alleviate incontinence, immobility and loss of hearings. The target age for these is 70 to 75.
Others target those from 50 to 60. Books such as La Redoute's "Taillisim," Les 3 Suisses' "Votre Mode" and Quelle's "Une Mode pour Moi" note that women after 50 tend to take larger sizes.
French agencies are beginning to specialize in this market. Senioragency Direct tailors offers and mailings sent to seniors. It adapts media plans to their needs, chooses special senior lists and writes copy to fit the target audience. It also selects special colors and visuals designed to attract seniors.
Product offerings also are broadening. Zuritel has launched a mailing selling car insurance to retired people, a first in France.
The key to the market, consultant Didier Gillino stated, is to provide offers that avoid hyperbole, deliver firm promises and do not treat seniors as children or as cranky and elderly.
"They have time to read, they demand information, but not just any kind," he said, "and react positively to simple but convincing exposition of a product's added value."