Unleashing the grey pound: Older consumers’ contribution to high street revival

This 2021 report from Tim Whitaker (Positive Ageing in London), outlines the economic contribution older people make to the high street, in addition to some of the barriers they may face accessing the high street. It also provides recommendations about how older people can be engaged more meaningfully in shaping their high streets.

Date added 16 November 2021
Last updated 16 November 2021

This 2021 report begins by discussing how the Covid-19 pandemic has opened up opportunities to rethink what we want from our high streets, and how to ensure they are more inclusive and welcoming places, including for older consumers – the focus of this report. It next outlines the economic contribution older people make to the high street, with some of this evidence reported in the resource summarised below:

  • In 2019, older consumers contributed to 54% of all UK consumer spending, and this is likely to increase to 63p of every pound spent by consumers by 2040.
  • Tackling the barriers to older people’s spending could add 2% (or £47 billion) to UK GDP a year by 2040.
  • The predicted top growth sectors for older consumers are recreation and culture, transport, and household goods and services.
  • Evidence is that in retirement flats 80% of older people who live there use shops daily.
  • For each retirement development (typically 45 flats) the people living there generate £550,000 of spending per year, £347,000 of which is spent on the local High Street.

However, the resource also identifies some of the key barriers to older people accessing and contributing to the shaping of their high streets, such as poor health, exclusive environments and goods, lack of welcoming retail areas and neighbourhoods, a lack of innovation in products and services, and challenges around high street accessibility.

In order to create more welcoming and inclusive high streets for older people, the resource proposes a range of key recommendations for local stakeholders, London-wide organisations, and central government, including:

  • Increase the numbers of places to rest on the high street.
  • Improve the walkability of high streets through things like widened pavements and removing unnecessary street obstructions.
  • Provide more accessible, convenient and clean public toilets and shops.
  • Improve access to public transport.
  • Maximise the social benefits of older consumers using high streets to combat loneliness, such as through community infrastructure.
  • More systematic engagement with older people in shaping the high street.
  • Develop training so that local authorities, organisations and businesses can better understand how to design more inclusive high streets and age-friendly principles.

To read more about this topic, this resource is also featured in this related Centre for Ageing Better blog post [link to external site]