Age associated changes in older consumers retail behaviour

Lisa Meneely (Ulster Business School, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK)
Amy Burns (Ulster Business School, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK)
Chris Strugnell (Ulster Business School, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Publication date: 6 November 2009



An understanding of consumer behaviour will enable service providers to segment their client base and target specific customer groups with strategies designed to meet their retail needs. Hence, an insight into and understanding of how consumers interact with and evaluate a retail offering will help improve customer service and satisfaction. The purpose of this paper is to examine the changes in consumers' food retail behaviour with regard to the demographic variable of age, based on the older population. This paper focuses on food shoppers aged over 60 years living independently in Northern Ireland. The retail geography in Northern Ireland has changed and whilst affecting all consumers has impacted to a greater degree on older consumers. This and the fact that the over 60 age group is increasing demographically illustrate why this consumer segment is worthy of greater consideration.


A quantitative methodological approach is employed and data are collected using a consumer questionnaire (n=791). The questionnaire is analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 15.


The results show that as age increases older consumers' retail buying and food‐related behaviour changes. A decline in patronage of multiple retailers is evident as age increases; as is consumers' perceived value of multi‐purchase promotions and nutritional confidence. Alongside increasing age there is an apparent increase in the use of local shops, the enjoyment gained from shopping, the difficulty experienced in accessing food retail sites and the problems experienced when cooking.

Practical implications

This paper suggests that age may be used to differentiate between customer groups and retailers must take age into consideration when providing a product offering and in retail provision for the elderly consumer.


This paper fulfils a need for information on older consumers' retail behaviour in Northern Ireland and offers advice to food retailers attempting to better serve this increasingly important consumer segment.



Meneely, L., Burns, A. and Strugnell, C. (2009), "Age associated changes in older consumers retail behaviour", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 37 No. 12, pp. 1041-1056.

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