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    NACS Marketing Confab Explores Baby Boomer Women

    Demographic changes require c-stores to focus on new target customers.

    DALLAS -- If you want baby boomer women to shop your stores, you need to have brightly lighted; clean, safe facilities, with friendly employees, healthy food offerings and clean bathrooms.

    Oh yeah, it wouldn't hurt if you had some Golden Oldie music playing from your sound system, and if you had a drive-thru window so she wouldn't have to get out of her car.

    Those were some of the preferences expressed by the focus group of baby boomer women at the NACS Marketing Conference, held here from June 5 to 7.

    The first day of the event was devoted to an in-depth exploration of the female consumer, particularly, the baby boomer woman.

    In addition to the focus group, moderated by retail food industry consultant Art Turock, other speakers included:

    -- Mary Brown, a partner with JWT Boom and co-author of the book "BOOM: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer -- the Baby Boomer Woman;"

    -- Michael Twitty and Eileen Kozin of Unilever presented research conducted by the CPG giant on segmentation of the baby boomer consumer;

    -- Doug Anderson of Convenience Store News sister companies ACNielsen & Spectra presented a sobering look at “What's Next for the Baby Boomer Generation."

    The focus group included seven women from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

    "I always pay at the pump," said Angie, a fifth-grade school teacher with four children, ages 7 through 13. "I try not to go into the store, even though the kids love their Slurpies."

    Marsha, a 51-year old empty-nester, said she had security concerns about c-stores. "I do not go to c-stores after dark," she said. "I don't feel safe."

    Asked to describe their ideal c-store, the panelists wanted a neat, clean, uncluttered store, with high-quality products -- kind of a c-store version of Target, the upscale discount department store, according to one woman.

    Brown described baby boomer women as the "sweet spot" between two mega-demographic trends -- the large and affluent boomer generation and women's control of the majority of consumer purchase decisions.

    "Boomers did not just borrow money, they transformed the debt market," said Brown. "They did not just get married, they transformed relationships and the institution of family. They did not just date, they transformed sex roles and practices. They did not just buy food, they created the fast food industry. And, they are going to recreate the c-store industry if you let them."

    Key drivers for meeting the needs of these empowered baby boomer women include time (make it fast and easy for them), health & wellness (women want c-stores to carry healthier food), she values experiences over things, and corporate relationships and responsibility (she will check under your corporate hood).

    Kozin of Unilever listed a dozen similar drivers for tomorrow's baby boomer shopper:

    -- Affluence
    -- Health & wellness
    -- Social networking
    -- Living for today
    -- Self-improvement
    -- Working retirement
    -- New experiences
    -- Individualism
    -- Convenience
    -- Value for money
    -- Savvy and information-hungry
    -- Ethics and environmentalism

    Twitty said that the implications for c-stores are not great. "Convenience today is not seen as a food destination," he said. C-stores need to evaluate their "food credentials," incorporate fresh quality and premium cues throughout their stores and become a place where shoppers would want to spend more time.

    Anderson suggested that the aging boomer population will place a tremendous strain on the national economy. "One-third of the U.S. GDP will go to health care by 2050," he noted. It's too soon to tell if we are heading for disaster, according to Anderson, but some things can be pretty accurately predicted:

    -- Boomers will spend more on food for out of home consumption
    -- They will spend more on alcoholic beverages, especially beer and wine.
    -- Home improvement spending will increase.
    -- Spending on consumer electronics will grow.

    Day 2 featured private business meetings between vendors and retailers.

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