Boomers Calling Shots and Setting Trends

Discussion
Sep 23, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Many of the trends that have developed in recent years and have been credited to the influence of Generations X and Y would never have happened without the consent of Baby Boomers.


That is the conclusion of an article on the RainMaker Thinking Web site, which points out Boomers still make up 42 percent of the workforce and sit in leadership positions within most businesses.


To support its thesis on the power of Boomers to set trends, the article offers this evidence: “If most boomers had rejected the ‘free agent’ norms and values so often associated with Generation X and Generation Y, it would have dried up and blown away. But that’s not what happened. It was when the Boomers embraced the new mindset that these trends became unstoppable.”


Another soon to be unstoppable trend may involve redefining retirement.


As the RainMaker Thinking article points out, many Boomers intend to continue working even after they retire. “Boomers are embracing a new form of retirement. We fully expect boomers to reinvent retirement as a hodgepodge of part-time, flex-time, telecommuting, consulting, and entrepreneuring.” 


Moderator’s Comment: How will Baby Boomers continue to influence business and social trends? What will this mean for retailers?
George Anderson – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Boomers Calling Shots and Setting Trends"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 5 months ago
When I looked at some demographic profiles of shoppers at various supermarket chains recently, I noticed that Whole Foods does great with Boomers, but that frequency of shopping at that (pricey) outlet plummets once you reach retirement age. If I were Whole Foods, I’d keep my eye on that. (Because conversely, in the very same markets, shopping at plain vanilla supermarkets rises at that magic retirement age.) But in some ways, I think our (Boomer) influence is vastly over-rated. First of all, we never had to give “consent” to Generations X & Y for anything. You might as well try to herd cats. They’ve done their own thing and followed their own drummer, which is great. I continue to learn a lot from them. Yes, we aren’t going to retire in the usual way. By and large, we aren’t ready to have our coronaries at 65, and are relatively more able to work longer. We’ll be paying off college loans for our kids. We’ll be finding ways to get health insurance, or money to pay… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 5 months ago

Baby Boomers, in the 60’s, set the stage for change in our country. Anti-government, corporate distrust, and free spirited wants…a selfishness, if you will.

Now, the wealthiest generation ever, this group continues to spend, and enjoy life. If the trends are being set, I would think that they would be in medicine, special foods and meals, and physical activities.

I would argue the Boomers created a difficult time for the X and Y generations, who socialize differently, eat differently, and have questioned the corporate and governmental worlds’ values more than the Baby Boomers…but not as actively as the Boomers (re: Viet Nam).

Distrust and latch key syndrome are prevalent in X, Y,and new Millennium generations. We Boomers took a lot away from our children…asking why no jobs, more wars, etc.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 5 months ago
The transfer of multi-trillions in personal wealth is moving rapidly into the hands of Baby Boomers, the greatest financial pass-along in America’s history. Unfortunately, it will not be shared equally across all social and demographic sectors, but it will still be a key overall influence on what happens in the near-future financial, social, political and retail environments. As a group, the Baby Boomers already have lots of money to indulge the spending whims of their children and grandchildren, Generation Xer and Yers, which will continue to further enhance retailing opportunities. And with 42% of the leadership roles in the workplace and in politics today being held by Baby Boomers, they appear comfortable in calling the shots. They project an apparent desire to alter, and hopefully improve, outdated traditions and influences in a quest to improve many existing conditions as well as their own way of life. With this wealth and influence come personal freedom, power, new concepts, new goals and more entrepreneurship. Their concepts will include expanding flexible retirement. They will be more reflective on… Read more »
Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 5 months ago
The first baby boomer is the wife of one of our professors at Saint Joseph’s University, Dr. Patrick Kirschling. Kathy Kirschling was born a few seconds after midnight on January 1, 1946. Kathy captures the essence of this generation: retired but not retiring, active (spends time on a 42 foot Grand Banks trawler yacht), and the modern grandmother – available when needed, but not doting. Baby boomers will continue to be active in the workforce. A recent AARP study found that 4 out of 5 boomers expect to keep working past “normal” retirement age, but at the same time nearly half say that they can’t wait to retire from their present job. This group is looking for a “renaissance” or rebirth, not retirement. Given the relative flatness in the growth of the younger generations, it would be wise to design “appealing work opportunities” for a group seeking a challenge more than a paycheck. As far as retailing is concerned, according to my research, baby boomers still have a love affair going with the traditional supermarket.… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

As the Boomers age, the elderly become a larger part of our society. Drug store chains are expanding. Lowe’s and Home Depot are emphasizing their installation services, since elderly do-it-yourselfers are rare. Sherwin-Williams paint stores have an alliance with Certa-Pro Painters, for similar reasons. Boomers will shop on-line more and more, since it’s harder to get around when you’re older, and it’s easier to get the stuff delivered. Children’s book sales have grown nicely, since grandparents (not parents) are the heavy buyers. When will retailers reform their catalogs and print ads to eliminate the small print Boomers can’t read?

Brian Numainville
Guest
15 years 5 months ago
Boomers will indeed continue to influence certain trends. Consider too, though, that the Millennials are roughly the same size as the Boomers and the Gen X’ers are just roughly 60% of each of the other groups. What are the implications for certain categories and the companies that manufacturer and sell products in these categories? For example, take “hectic family” and “youth” convenience products — these will decline for a time while the Boomers move to an empty nest and the replenishment stock of kids will drop while the smaller number of Gen X’ers are in their childbearing years. However, a resurgence in these products will come when the larger group of Millennials have kids and schedules once again get real busy. On the other hand, certain product categories may flourish — for example, IRI information shows that Boomers tend to replace their kids with pets. Boomers already spend greater than the average on dog food but there is a significant bump on spending on cat food and related products in Boomer households without children. Finally,… Read more »
John Rand
Guest
John Rand
15 years 5 months ago

Boomers are as economically diverse as any other group, and maybe more so. The tendency of the outright poor or “just getting by” to be invisible to retailing and marketing doesn’t mean they aren’t there – as Wal-Mart has proven.

There may be plenty of wealth early retirees in David’s neighborhood, but there are many millions more who are in no such enviable state. They will work past 65 because they have no choice – and the retail effects will be nothing compared to the political ones.

The Boomers may very well shake society up more in their Age 60s than they ever did in the Decade of the 60s.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Principally, I agree with David and others that many Boomers are well set for the next decade or so and we’ll see some nice discretionary spending, as a result. But I also see a sizable backlash coming from the end of the Boomer curve mainly as a result of skyrocketing college costs and the potential deflation of the real estate bubble. Consider that it may cost late Boomers $300,000 – $500,000 to put their 2.3 kids through undergraduate school. When in the “comfortable middle class,” financial aid is almost non-existent. Those bills are generally being covered with the help of home equity loans. If the real estate market slides, many will find they have to put off retirement to pay off their debt.

In my neighborhood, I already see a lot of house and SUV downsizing as parents reset their financial goals. I also see many selling off their vacation homes, altering their retirement dreams as a result.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

I think we will continue to see an increase in retail catering to the affluent as baby boomers retire. Retirement age used to be 60-65. Now I’m seeing more and more people retiring at 50-55 and it’s not unusual to see people 45-50 retiring. Many people in this younger age group have built up pensions, large 401ks, IRAs, home equity, and are the beneficiaries of their own parent’s estates. Nowadays, the little Social Security check is just icing on the cake. The non-working retired baby boomers are some of the wealthiest in our country. I am always amused when going to a casino and watching the elderly put money into slot machines as fast as they can. They have run out of things to spend it on and now are just throwing their money away for fun. I think we have already seen retail trends change as many have been moving up in class to cater to a growing, more affluent, customer base.

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