Senior discounts have been around for decades. Now they have a moment.
Reviewer mentions of the “senior discount” soared 36% from 2021 to 2022, according to data from crowdsourced review site Yelp. And AARP says a growing number of its more than 38 million members are enjoying benefits for gas, event tickets and health care.
For many older shoppers, the scope of promotions saving a few bucks on a meal, a soda, or new pants is a welcome benefit of getting older. But others see them as a necessity, especially as inflation continues to eat away at their purchasing power. This is a growing group — 42% of adults 50 and older ones “either work into retirement for financial reasons or plan to do so,” according to AARP Research.
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Kathy Lamb, 72, is looking for ways to save on her hobbies. The Chicago book and photography appraiser is looking for discounts on movie and theater tickets and museum memberships. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Driehaus Museum both offer $20 discounts to people 55 and older.
“I go to museums all the time and easily join museums anyway, but the discounts encourage me to join more,” Lamb said.
Historically, such promotions have proven effective for restaurants and retailers in attracting retirees as they transition from the “production to consumption” phase of their lives, said Mindy Weinstein, founder and chief executive of the marketing firm. Digital Market Mindshift. Normally, these consumers want to spend and are more likely to frequent places that value them, she added.
“We all like exclusivity,” Weinstein said. “So when companies offer that, it’s a feeling like, ‘I’m part of that special group…I’m recognized and rewarded.’ And that builds loyalty.”
Yelp data backs it up: nearly 80% of reviews mentioning a “senior discount” were positive.
A handful of major retailers offer discounts to older shoppers. Kohl’s, Ross and Goodwill offer 10-15% discounts on select days of the week. Michael’s is offering 10% off daily, and Walgreens and Joann Fabric and Craft have a 20% discount on designated senior days, which vary by location.
It is also common for grocers, restaurants, salons and local stores to advertise promotions for older customers. United Markets, a family grocery store in Marin County, California, is offering 10% off to people 60 and older on the first Thursday of the month. On Tuesdays, Joe Randazzo’s Fruit Market in Detroit offers a 10% discount. Signature Style Lounge, a hair and nail salon in Hopatcong, NJ, is offering a 15% promotion on appointments Wednesday through Friday.
There isn’t as much stigma around these promotions anymore, Weinstein said. Older consumers are more comfortable being online. They’re on Facebook, joining groups and posting their outings, and on Yelp, where they see other people writing positive reviews about the discounts, she added.
“For those older people, being able to see that, ‘Oh, other people in my age group — they’re active, they travel, they go to restaurants, they go to theatres.’ It takes away a bit of the stigma,” Weinstein said.
Some perks, like utility bill credits and internet and cable discounts, are welcome reprieves for those trying to stretch their cash. Like most Americans, older consumers are feeling the brunt of inexorably high inflation. This was evident in the US Census Bureau’s February retail sales report, which showed a 0.4% decline from the previous month. And although inflation cooled to 6% in February, the stakes are still high for older people out of work and facing rising long-term care costs in assisted living facilities.
Many seniors have also seen their retirement funds dwindle due to an unstable stock market. A report by Fidelity Investments found that at the end of 2022 retirees were losing 23% of their balance year over year.
Social Security benefits are also lagging inflation despite the government agency’s benefit checks increasing by 8.7% starting this year. The increase is not enough to offset rising prices for basic necessities, which is leading many to dip into their savings and some to return to work, said Chip West, a behavioral expert in retail and consumers at marketing solutions company Vericast.
“That, combined with the fact that many older Americans are starting to take on more debt in retirement — like mortgages, car loans, and even credit card debt — they’re looking to save,” he added. . “We see that rising inflation and soaring prices have created a new iteration of a very, very, very savvy consumer.”
Older shoppers are looking for sales more, buying branded products and using coupons, West added.
During this era of inflation, AARP saw an increase in enrollment. Member benefits are a big draw, with discounts for most major necessities. The interest group has seen the biggest increase in uses of the gas discount, AARP Vice President of Research Indira Venkat said, as well as discounts for experiences such as hotels and events. Members also took advantage of their promotions on cellular plans. And as drug prices continue to rise, members have shown increased interest in drug discounts.
Corie Wagner, senior industry research editor at SeniorLiving.org, found similar trends in her research. Inflated prices combined with the pressure of living on a fixed income have made strategic spending a necessity.
“A few dollars there could, at the end of the month, add up to $100…and that could go a long way towards your rent, your medicine, whatever you absolutely need,” Wagner said.
But she warned that discounts won’t solve everything – ‘It’s kind of a band-aid on a bigger issue, but every little bit counts when you’re trying to make ends meet.”