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Too Many Brands Are Missing Opportunities with ‘Silver Consumers’

Millennials are viewed as one of the most desirable demographics to marketers and businesses alike.  The purchasing practices and brand loyalty habits of this younger, hipper demographic have come to captivate industries, and the ease with which brands can engage with them is unmatched. As such, it isn’t hard to see why brands are obsessed with the cohort.

In the U.S. alone, there are now roughly 80 million millennials, according to data from the Pew Research Center, making them the largest demographic in the country. This is set to change, however, as the world faces an aging population due to the combination of longevity and low birth rate.

The over 50s, often referred to as ‘silver consumers,’ are increasingly pushing for representation, especially in fashion. Even though they make up only about one-third of the population, silver consumers hold around 80 percent of the U.K.’s wealth, according to a SunLife study. With an expected total world population of 2 billion for those above 60 by 2050, per World Health Organization data, this rising group of silver consumers represents tremendous opportunities to industries across the board.

Older demographics have strong potential given their accumulated disposable incomes, and they tend to be more financially stable, with higher rates of spending and a willingness to pay for improving quality throughout every aspect of life.

When it comes to apparel choices, clothing’s comfortability and durability—which have traditionally been top considerations for older generations—are no longer the only factors influencing silver consumer purchases. Instead, an abundance of consumer surveys have found that silver consumers value the design of clothing, as they wish to remain young and stylish.

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A 2016 study by Mintel found that just under half of the over 55s in the U.K. would like more stylish clothes, tailored to their age, compared to an average of 32 percent for women across all ages. Brands then, must focus their efforts on a vast and underserved customer base, and craft balance between traditional approaches to clothing considerations, and sustainable style that complement and appeal to their lifestyles in the 21st century.

In addition to style, there’s also a growing group of mindful mature consumers who value social and environmental responsibility. As consumers around the world are becoming more value-driven, they are demanding greater transparency and more sustainable options from brands, and are willing to open their wallets for products that are made with sustainable materials and deliver on social responsibility claims. Garments made from sustainable fibers therefore, appeal to silver consumers who are willing to pay a price premium for quality.

As an example, the sustainably produced Tencel branded Lyocell and Modal fibers, which feature advanced comfort and increased durability as compared with other cellulose fibers—owing to a longer lasting color vibrancy and moisture management function—are ideal for producing sportswear, home and intimate wear, and even shoes for the mature consumer.

Millennials have come to dominate the eco-conscious narratives peppered throughout fashion, however, increasingly mindful older demographics are still a greatly underserved base within the movement. With the purchasing power to increase demand, and as a result, attainability for the masses, eco-conscious mature consumers must form part of the conversation too.

With increased health awareness at a mature life stage, silver consumers are surprisingly up to date with latest trends and privy to new technologies, especially products that can help them maintain their quality of life and stay healthy. Their eagerness to try products for monitoring and improving health condition also fuels the growth of wearable garments, which are already becoming readily available with new innovations in textiles to perform specific functions.

The launch of the Wearable Lab, an area dedicated to invention and forward-looking ideas at Première Vision, is a testimony to the rising trend of innovative fashion technologies. Now with the introduction of AI, wearable garments have even greater capabilities, ranging from tracking every function of our bodies to improving our fitness levels. Similar to smart watches, wearable garments are set to grow in popularity and become everyday essentials to many people, especially within the silver demographic.

In this way, connected and smart garments enabled by new innovations across the textile industry, represent a profound opportunity for brands wishing to gain greater awareness among older buyers.

As silver consumers continue to demonstrate enormous economic potential, brands should not defer, but rather leverage these new market opportunities by aligning product offerings with aging consumers’ needs and preferences.

In the textile industry, expect to see closer collaborations more frequently for developing new offerings targeted toward mature consumers, beginning with sourcing quality raw materials and leveraging innovative technologies to enhance comfortability, durability and environmental responsibility in fashion.

It is time we treat older demographics as we do their millennial counterparts–with the care they deserve.


Judy Chen is based in Lenzing’s Taiwan office, and has been with Lenzing for 18 years. She spent the first 10 years as marketing manager until moving into her role as head of the Innerwear segment, developing key relationships between the supply chain and brands.