Britain's service industries are failing to exploit the nation’s increasingly affluent grey market, accuses a report published today by economics consultancy Business Strategies.

Defined as adults aged 45 and over, the so-called grey market is estimated to be 23 million-strong and spends more on average than any other age group on leisure services. As a percentage of the total population their numbers are steadily increasing.

According to the report, there are now thirteen million working greys aged 45 to retirement age of 60 or 65. The number is predicted to reach 14m within the next decade. But, says the report’s author, Melanie Lansbury, their potential spending power is virtually ignored by the service sector – from retailers to holiday operators, motoring services and healthcare providers.

“To a large extent, this market has been relatively unexploited," says Lansbury. "Most companies in the leisure and entertainment industries have tended to target the younger population, couples and families. The same applies in some parts of retailing, particularly fashion. But with the population ageing and the number of 'greys' increasing, the importance of the grey market can no longer be overlooked.”

Working greys – the wealthiest segment of the market – will be part of the newly retired market in ten years. Currently they spend £9 a week more on leisure services than average households, £3 of which goes on foreign travel. They also spend 25% more on motoring and 15% more on household services.

Average weekly spending on leisure by newly retired greys is £39, slightly below the £42 for all households, but growth in their leisure spending has been "spectacular" in recent years. In the past ten years, the older greys have doubled their weekly spending on leisure services.

Overall, 23 million Britons are aged over 45, a number predicted to rise to 26m by 2010.

News source: Financial Times