Guide to Understanding the Grey Market

Learn more about the grey market of older consumers and how they can present a valuable market for your business.

The grey market is broadly defined as those over the age of 50 (although sometimes figures include those over the age of 45). This growing group of consumers represent a sizeable market for many providers of goods and services, yet is often misunderstood or even overlooked.

Brands as diverse as Saga and Harley Davison have successfully managed to build sizeable revenue from the grey market. As the profile of the older consumer changes more than ever before, maybe you should reconsider your perceptions of this important market.

The first point to consider is that the grey market contains many different shades. Older people cover a wide spectrum of ages, and those over the age of 75 often have very different spending patterns, incomes and views of those in the early years of the grey market. This means that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to your marketing will rarely succeed. Instead you should segment, prioritise and target the grey market, just like any other.

The grey market is sometimes dismissed as being of less value than younger consumer groups. Yet recently the number of people of pensionable age surpassed the number of under 16’s for the first time ever. This can be attributed to the current low birth rate, the “baby boom” generation, and increases in life expectancy. It is also important to remember that the fastest growing age group in the population are those aged 80 years, who currently make up 4.5 per cent of the total population. Marketing professionals should dismiss such a rapidly growing market at their peril.

Older people can sometimes be stereotyped, especially by younger marketing types. Yet today’s `grey market’ is characterised by consumers who are healthier, more active, and younger in outlook than their counterparts a generation ago, and as such there are many opportunities for marketers and advertisers who take the trouble to find out what drives this group and stimulates purchase.

On this subject, it should be remembered that the grey market certainly has purchasing power. Government figures show that households headed by adults aged 50 to 64 years have experienced larger increases in both gross and disposable incomes over the past 2 years than has been the case for any other age group.

According to figures from the government’s Family Spending Survey, the over 45’s spend more than other sectors of the population on the following;

  • Gardening related products and services
  • Insurance Policies
  • Hairdressing and Beauty Treatments
  • Gambling
  • Package Holidays
  • Alcoholic Drinks
  • Tobacco
  • Recreation and Culture

Delve deeper and some interesting insights are uncovered. It might not be too surprising to learn that older retirees spend a significant amount per week on recreation and culture, but would you also have known that their spend on hairdressing and beauty treatments is higher than any other households? Older consumers obviously have disposable income, as they are also the largest spenders amongst households on gambling and package holidays.

In summary, medical advances and the size of the “baby boom generation” mean that this age group will grow significantly over future years and statistics show that the grey market consumer has more disposable income, and spare time than any other age group.

The grey market are not who they were a generation ago; this generation of greys feel young at heart and spend money on enjoying life to the full. This generation are happier than any previous ‘grey’ generation to embrace new technologies and try new experiences.

More businesses could well benefit from helping them do so.

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