The Fort Myers, Fla.-based retailer has built a thriving business around those changing
shapes, making it one of a smattering of specialty retail chains catering to an underserved
but lucrative group of apparel shoppers: aging baby-boomer women.
If "underserved baby boomer" sounds oxymoronic, it is. The nearly 80 million children
of the post-World War II era, those born between 1946 and 1964, have been courted by
marketers every minute of their lives. Sport-utility vehicles. Self-help books. Hair
coloring. Fast-food chains. Botox. VCRs. Viagra.
"We changed every market we entered, from the disposable-diaper market to the stock
market to the job market," said Lynne Lancaster, a generational expert and co-author of
"When Generations Collide." "We like to be marketed to."
But there's a generational shift that apparel retailers have either missed or ignored,
Lancaster said. "Part of the fashion industry is so scared of being seen as dowdy and old,"
That attitude could be costing the industry big bucks, especially among the 50-something
consumers, who wield tremendous purchasing power and promise to wield even more
until they retire.
Consider this: A boomer turns 50 every seven seconds in this country, census data show.
Those already in their fifties hold 77 percent of all personal assets and represent 66
percent of all U.S. stockholders even though they make up only 27 percent of the
population, according to Age Wave Impact, a marketing agency in Emeryville, Calif.
And though baby boomers are aging, 7 out of 10 purport to be in perfectly good health,
suggesting that most of their spending is tied to their wants and not necessarily their
needs (at least for empty-nesters), market research firm RoperASW in New York reports.
For boomer women, wants include about $29 billion in casual clothing. That's how much
they spent on sportswear last year alone, said Marshal Cohen, co-president of
NPDFashionworld, a market information firm in Port Washington, N.Y.
Their spending puts them neck-and-neck with the younger Gen Xers chased by so many