|August 12, 2009
Financial Times / FT series Japan's greying market
|Business cashes in on older consumers|
Following customers up the age pyramid has become vital for Japanese businesses. In spite of ventures catering to needs that are specific to the elderly – nursing homes, “mobility enhancing” robot helpers – most companies sell to a wide audience and must make subtle and often difficult adjustments as buyers age.
How they fare will serve as a lesson to businesses elsewhere, experts say, as societies from Europe to China follow Japan into a greying future.
Hiroyuki Murata, a writer and consultant on business and ageing, says: “As people get older, their tastes and needs become more similar. Japan is a living laboratory.”
Other markets that seemed to be equally obvious targets have turned out to be tougher to read. Many real estate developers were banking on a U-turn of pensioners, returning from Tokyo and other big cities to country towns. That has not happened.
Mr Murata says: “It’s usually the wife who objects. The husband might want to spend his retirement working in a field back home, but the wife usually likes the convenience of the city.”
The result: a higher premium on urban condominiums within an easy walk of train stations, and ever falling prices for rural retreats.
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