Power Of The Purse

I was recently asked to speak for a group of sales people with the focus being their women’s line.  To prepare for this speech, I did hours of research and observation.  This particular research led me to some very interesting awareness that I think is important for all retailers to be aware of:  America is getting older.
Now I am still denying this fact, by coloring my hair and covering up my wrinkles with makeup.  But yes even I (as a retail sales associate pointed out) am in the “older” category by being 43.  Bummer.
This led me to a few facts about this aging population.  Number one, more women than men are aging ever so gracefully.  This 50+ American woman are the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation of women in our history.  And not only are women getting older but guess what…these women have money.
You see, once these women have paid the last of the college bills and their children have launched their own lives, the discretionary spending power of 50+ woman soars.  They spend 2.5 times what the average person spends.
1.  Over the next decade, women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest  transference of wealth in our country’s history. The estimates range from $12 to $40 trillion.  And guess what, this Boomer woman is a consumer that wants LUXURY brands.
2.  Women age 50 and older control a net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth.
3.  More than 1.3 million women professionals and executives earn in excess of $100,000 annually. 43% of Americans with more than $500,000 in assets are female.
4.  These women represent a portion of the buying public no retailer can afford to ignore. With successful careers, investments made during the “boom” years, and inheritances from parents or husbands, they are more financially empowered than any previous generation of women.
All of these facts are astounding.  What is more incredible is that even though women clearly are financially empowered, something happens after women turn 50.  These women become invisible. 
Kristen Scott Thomas who has spoken about her experience of “vanishing” as a middle-aged woman says, “when you are walking down the street, you get bumped into.  People slam doors in your face – they just don’t notice you.”
Another quote from a 50+, “For the aging woman one day you are in the flirty mode with a sales clerk and the next he is gazing straight past you at the 20 something behind you.”
These quotes go on and on.  Now for the purpose of my research I wanted to find out if this was true in the industries we work in (outdoor, running and bike).
I was at our local fishing store in AVL to check out the underwear display of the client I was speaking too.  While I was diving into the display, two groups of 50+ women came in.  One group had 3 women and the other had 4 women.  All of these women were shopping, not “Just looking” and no one helped them.  The female sales associate came right up to me and asked how she could help me.  As if I had any money.
In another example, I was at a larger retailer in the southeast who has 13 stores.  I was actually in there to buy my annual bathing suit.  The sales associate was engaged with me as literally 6 different groups of “older women” shopped around us even at the same fixture we were standing at and they were not recognized.  I guess this feeling of being invisible is true in these industries.
In the interest in seeking out new ways to attract new people in our store, let’s not over look the people who are already in our stores with money in their hands.  The independent retail industry has a great opportunity to recognize this demographic and to begin to build a strategy around this woman. 


About the author – Leslie Cunningham is a mom, active cyclist, runner and the Chief Connection Officer at The Mann Group. Leslie is a master of maintaining relationships. From her photography work with celebrities including John Mellencamp, Mikhail Gorbachev and Michael Andretti, to publishing a book that is empowering new mothers everywhere. Leslie knows people. 

For the past 20+ years she has perfected the art of connecting with people. Leslie has been a Human Resources Director for over 150 small business owners developing training, workers compensation and employee benefit programs. Leslie worked as a HR Executive during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2001. She also managed fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House raising over a quarter of a million dollars in one evening.  Leslie connects with people and walks along side of the them until they are living their life with ease and passion. “I sense where people are unhappy and connect them to solutions.”

If you’d like to learn how The Mann Group can improve the customer experience and top line sales in your store, please give us a call at 1-800-936-3049 or drop Leslie an email at lcunningham@manngroup.net .

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