The outbreak of the global pandemic contributed to an increased health awareness among people. Keeping yourself fit through exercise and sport is growing in importance. This trend is set to continue in the coming years especially in the ever-growing 55+ generation – also known as “best agers”. Companies – not least those in the sports retail sector – will be challenged in terms of how best to appeal to this extremely interesting target group, harbouring great potential in terms of, among other things, its purchasing power, health consciousness, fitness and abundance of free time. “The ‘best ager’ customer group is set to become increasingly important within the sports retail sector, however, these people also have specific expectations” explains Verena Schledorn, the senior category manager of outdoor & winter sports/textiles at SPORT 2000 International.
Best agers know what they want
Europe is the world’s oldest continent. Not in terms of when it was formed, but in terms of the average age of its inhabitants. In no other region on earth are people older: in 2019, the average age was 42 years.
Life expectancy in humans has been on the increase for decades, the result of advancements in medicine, improved hygiene, access to a balanced diet and increasing wealth. In Europe, men live to an average of 78.3, women to an average of 83.9.
The outbreak of a global pandemic has further boosted people’s health consciousness, with exercise becoming more common among older people in particular. The goal: to live healthily and independently for as long as possible.
“Mature people have usually already tried out various sports and know which activities are best suited to them. But many will also use the free time they gain on retiring to try out new sports types,” says Schledorn, going on to explain what this target group considers important when making a purchase: “As they get older, it becomes more important to them to buy sports equipment that is tailored to their individual needs. They therefore attach great value to receiving expert advice from their sports retailer. Quality is becoming increasingly important here, with price only a secondary consideration.”
Purchasing behaviour among best agers
Contrary to what you might expect, best agers are also digitally adept. When it comes to researching and purchasing, they are therefore as active online as they are offline.
More mature sports enthusiasts are however keenly aware that the internet cannot replace the personalised advice you get in a specialist sports store. “Best agers like to buy products online that do not require consultation, for example clothing and simple sports equipment. If they want to make bigger purchases, such as winter sports equipment, bicycles or running shoes, then they like to avail of a specialist retailer’s expertise. Here, they usually only use the internet to conduct some preliminary research and get an overview of the various products and brands,” explains Verena Schledorn.
Best agers are sports enthusiasts
How should the sports retail trade treat this target group going forward? Schledorn is clear on the fact that approaches to addressing this group need to change fundamentally. “For years, companies have failed to properly address people over the age of 55 in their advertising. People still hold on to the image of the frail old pensioner, but this image does not apply to today’s target group at all. Because, as the term “best ager” already indicates, its members are in their prime, and they go about their sporting pursuits accordingly,” explains the category manager, adding, “It is our task as a company to develop a very clear picture of these people. Customers over the age of 55 are often sportier, ore active and better equipped than younger target groups. They can also afford good equipment and like to take on challenging sporting pursuits. ‘Healthy back work’ and ‘senior gymnastics’ in no way cover the spectrum of interests of this target group. This calls for a change in approaches, including advertising approaches.”
According to Verena Schledorn, well-trained sales staff and a quality brand portfolio are key to meeting the consultative needs of best agers.
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