The silver surfers probably have no army of mouths to feed, no mortgage and while, like everyone else, they face rising fuel and food bills, many are reasonably comfortable financially. The UK’s largest grocer, Tesco, has long recognised this fruitful demographic and has been canny in developing the UK’s first pensioner-friendly supermarket.
Tesco is understood to have sent a group of over-65s to visit the Kaiser supermarket in Berlin, one of the first of its kind in Germany. They will report back before a decision is taken on a proposed 60,000 sq ft store in Newcastle – next door to the city’s General Hospital and Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health.
If the store is given the go-ahead, it would feature extra-wide aisles, anti-slip flooring and trolleys with locking wheels and built-in chairs.
If the model mirrors the Kaiser store in Germany, it should be a hit. Feedback has been positive. Many of its customers appreciate the signs being very clear, the magnifying glasses on shelves and trolleys and the fact that the lighting is better. Some even said the staff are friendlier than at your average supermarket.
And the figures add up, too. Since the Kaiser store opened in 2005, sales have increased by 25 per cent above forecast figures, with more than 60 per cent of its customers aged over 50.
Tesco could well have hit on something big here. Silver surfers are all for customer experience. They like John Lewis because the staff explain everything to them, show them different options and they don’t feel like they are being rushed out the door.
But more importantly, aside from customer service, if the store is adapted to their needs, silver surfers will feel accepted. For so long, silver surfers’ needs have been ignored and yet a significant number have more disposable income than working families.
Tesco is not afraid to try new things and despite the focus on cheap prices to get customers through the door, it is still pushing forward with innovations. If the success of Kaiser is anything to go by, wide aisles and trolleys with locking wheels could be winging their way to high streets across the UK very soon.