A report by the Office of National Statistics shows that recent internet use by retired adults has increased by 27% since 2011 and set to rise to 67% in 2019.

The report analysing UK internet use by age, sex, disability and geographical location, offered up some intriguing statistics. Virtually all UK adults aged 16 to 44 years had used the internet in the last three months (99%) in 2019, although perhaps unsurprisingly this figure plummets to 47% for the over 75s.

However, of significant interest is the fact that recent internet use by retired adults has increased by 27% since 2011 to rise to 67% in 2019.

According to the report, the over 65s are still the age group least likely to shop online, but the proportion of older people buying items from websites has trebled over the last 10 years to leap from 16% to 48%.

When it comes to how they go about their internet shopping, 42% of pensioners said they used tablets, while 36% said they used mobile phones and laptops.

While the practical benefits of online shopping would seem to make it an obvious choice for over 65s, historically they have tended to remain loyal to traditional in-store shopping. However, improved security for online shoppers has meant that those who were previously wary are now willing to give it a try, and the convenience of shopping from the comfort of their own homes is making them enthusiastic converts.

The Grey Pound has long been considered a force to be reckoned with – back in 2014 Saga estimated that it was worth £320bn of yearly household spending – and Age UK predicts that by 2040, nearly one in four people in the UK will be aged over 65 or more.

A recent audit by independent think tank, the Resolution Foundation, has found that people aged 18 to 29 are spending £380 a week on non-housing items – 7% less than they were in 2001. By comparison, those aged over 65 have enjoyed a 37% rise in spending to £390 a week, and are also devoting a greater share of spending to recreation, restaurants, hotels and culture.

The fact that now almost half of those over 65 shop online has ominous implications for the high street. While it’s clear that many over 65s still value an in-store shopping experience, any retailers who are relying on older generations to prop up their businesses will be faced with having to reinvent themselves sooner or later. Added to that new data from the ONS also shows that online sales have risen by 15.3% over the past year and now make up a record high of 18.2% of all retail sales – having a polished online shop window is now essential.

But it’s increasingly clear that brands who ignore over 65s could be missing a trick. Evidently both in-store and online shopping experiences need to appeal to all generations – after all, this is an opportunity to engage with this demographic and build brand loyalty that can’t be missed.

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