Super market chain goes after the Grey Euro - opening stores for OAPs.

28-11-2003

In Austria, a supermarket chain has begun opening stores for seniors. They're called 50 plus and they're calculating that age has purchasing power.

Heading down an aisle of Vienna's 50 plus supermarket - these aisles are wide and there's lots of light - and these trolleys resemble a walking frame with wheels. There's a little seat to take a rest on and a place to put a walking stick. But there the differences seem to end. Here's the baby food and there are the frozen pizzas. But there is another difference. It turns out "50 plus" refers to the customer target group as well as the people who work here. Horst Hansal is the manager of this store..

" The customers are demanding better and better and more service. We discovered that older workers, because of their life experiences, can give the customers better advice."

But will silver haired service at the check-out pull extra customers into these wide aisles? Around a third of the Austrian population is now over fifty and thanks to a generous state pension system, many have taken early retirement. According to market researcher Olaf Kappela - this is an important consumer group.

"A realistic marketing manager today simply can not overlook this group and it needs a special treatment. Those are major and critical consumers with a thick wallet. They simply have to be treated and addressed in a specific way."

"Oh definitely they have money to spend. Age groups retiring now or being in early retirement they're in that kind of scheme where they do earn a lot before they retire. And usually their kids are finished their education so basically they have a good amount of money to spend."

The company behind 50 plus, Adeg, operates around 130 supermarkets and claims the first of their seniors stores are performing better than the rest.

"Surprisingly, we're finding with our supermarkets that turnover is up by ten percent. It's amazing what people over 50 can perform."

On the day I went senior shopping there were as many under fifty's as over fifty's - and none of them were measuring their blood pressure on the device provided just by the fruit and veggies.

PERSON 1: "It's nice it's clean, it's not too many people in this store because it might be a little bit more expensive than other stores."

PERSON 2: "Oh it's nice, it's fantastic because the people working here are extremely friendly. I love coming here and I think it's a great opportunity particularly for women. As you look around at women working here."

Whether slower store clerks and larger parking spots create profits remains to be seen. But right now 60-year-old Doris at the delicatessen is pleased to be back in a job.

"Yes it's a beautiful work. Yes, I'm happy I can work here."

28-11-2003