TOKYO: Major retailers and consumer goods firms are ramping up their focus on ageing shoppers around the world, reflecting the growing importance of this affluent demographic in many markets.

Aeon, the Japanese supermarket operator, opened a store for older customers in Chiba, near Tokyo, this April. It offers everything from medical clinics to calligraphy classes, alongside promising a 5% discount on products when it is pension day.

The company's approach was informed by the fact that over-60s consumers deliver 40% of Japan's domestic spending, according to the Daiichi Life Research Institute.

"These are the wealthiest, most active, healthiest and longest-living retirement generation in the history of the world," Jerry Black, Aeon's chief strategy officer, told the Financial Times.

Aeon's outlet in Chiba also provides financial services. Nomura Securities and Dai-ichi Mutual Life, which dispense this advice, hold 20% more consultations there than in normal bank branches.

Drawing on these types of insights will be crucial for the retailer, as it is seeking to establish equivalent branches in China going forward. "Ageing is a global trend, and we want to learn," said Black.

Kaiser was one of the pioneers of stores for elderly customers, utilising brighter lighting and wide aisles for mobility scooters in German supermarkets, as well as adding magnifying glasses to shelves and trolleys, which also contain seats for tired visitors.

For its part, Unilever, the FMCG giant, is tracking the key trends relating to older shoppers, and has noted certain distinctive behaviours among this group.

"As people get older their taste buds start going, so, in the US, Mexican food is doing well, not just among the Hispanic community," Nigel Bagley, Unilever's director of customer relations, said. "Older people want spicier tastes."

Meanwhile, the firm has recently rolled out a "pro-age" extension to the Dove personal care range. "Easy to open packaging is key," said Bagley. "We have a lot of work to do on this. It is all a new area for us, it's a new area for the whole industry."

Nestlé, the Swiss food company, is attempting to tap the same audience by introducing products enriched with key nutrients, and has also started testing its packaging to ensure older buyers can cope with it.

However, Dick Boer, chief executive of Ahold, the Dutch retailer, suggested that communications must be equally tailored for this audience. "Advertising always reaches young people," he said.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff