This year's event focused on the theme: 'Engaging with the Ageing Consumer'

The NRRKEC organised and hosted a second successful Annual Retail Symposium on 14 July, held at Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University.

As the primary role of the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre is to facilitate knowledge exchange between academics and retailers, each annual symposium focuses on a topic which has stimulated lots of academic research and which we feel might be of interest to retailers. In 2017 our focus was the future of the high street and this year we selected “Engaging with the Ageing Consumer” as the Symposium theme.

Our message is that retailers are going to have to take into account that the population over 75 is projected to double in the next 30 years.  This is a very important group of consumers many of whom are relatively affluent and for retailers it’s a huge opportunity. We therefore wanted to highlight academic research which we feel will enable retailers to respond more effectively.

Speakers at the Symposium included Prof Kim Cassidy, the Academic Director, NRRKEC at Nottingham Business School, Prof Patricia Schofield from the Centre for Future Ageing Research at Anglia Ruskin University, Dr Robert Zniva from Vienna University of Economics and Business, Polly Barnfield OBE from Maybee* and #WDYT, Dr Katherine Townsend and Prof Benachir Medjdoub from Nottingham Trent University, Steve Austin from University of the Third Age and Dr Jonathan Reynolds from the Oxford Institute of Retail Management at Oxford University.

Attendees included a mix of academics (from both Nottingham Trent University/Business School and from other Institutions both in the UK and Europe) together with other stakeholders with an interest in retail and in particular the ageing consumer.

The Symposium included an excellent and interactive panel and Q&A session and at the end of the event delegates were asked to make recommendations for retailers when it comes to ‘engaging the ageing’ which included the following:


  • Understand the individual, not the category. Retailers must learn to see older shoppers as a varied and diverse collection of individuals, rather than a homogeneous group.


  • Involve older people. The lack of older people in retail, particularly in fashion design, is making mature shoppers feel disengaged. Retailers should hire staff from a more diverse range of ages, and pay older employees better.


  • Be aware of subtle cues and turn-offs. Retailers should think about tactics such as the age of staff working on make-up counters, for instance, to make shoppers of all ages feel comfortable.


  • Retail can lead the way. Rather than being reactive to the ageing population, retailers could set the tone and change their business models to be leaders rather than followers.


  • Understand that size does matter. Whether it is women’s clothing design or groceries, where older people tend to prefer smaller portions, retailers need to be more flexible and adapt to their shoppers’ varying needs when it comes to size.


To read the full Retail Week coverage of this event please click here