By Tony Samson

MARKETERS are now paying attention to the growing “gray market.” As a marginalized group, old people with lots of money (OPLOM) may not qualify for party-list inclusion. In the 2015 census, the age group of those over 65 years old comprise only 5% of the population. The wealthy segment of seniors can embarrass their cohort age group, such as old people supported by their offspring (OPSBTO) who may have a better chance of party list representation, with a sprightlier acronym like: Just Old Leftovers and Grandparents Society (JOLOGS).

There are challenges for marketers targeting the OPLOMs. Their closets and garages are already full. It’s a market that already has all it needs or wants. So, they no longer buy suits and jackets on impulse, unless they had a liposuction done or survived a debilitating affliction to evolve into the retailers dream for “wardrobe makeover.”

How do OPLOMs spend their still considerable disposable income?

They buy expensive treats. And they don’t bother to take photos as they have little motivation to post anything on their social media, except chats — have you already seen the Avengers? Purchased experiences include traveling in comfort, flying business and checking in at a nice hotel which serves flaky croissants in their buffet breakfasts. Fine dining that does not require waiting in line is an item in the to-do list.

In a wonderful ad from a budget airline, the billboard features a tag — just because you’re old doesn’t mean you don’t want to try new adventures. The photo is of an unaccompanied senior who looks fit in his tank top, on a beach. Yes, that captures the spirit.

Wellness at an advanced age is distinct from illness, which can also eat up the disposable income, even with insurance and what it does not cover. This classification doesn’t include gym (too much sweat) but pampering that is supposed to reward age. Body scrubs, hot oil scalp massage, and coffee and cakes are trivial pursuits worth considering. There is too the no-longer-fashionable ballroom dancing session that comes with a regular dance instructor. More au courant is yoga, pole dancing, or, for the less nimble, taichi — push the mountain; part the clouds.

Downsizing lifestyles for empty-nesters can involve moving to a smaller space. To unburden the clients from paying for all sorts of support staff like gardeners and pool cleaners, the big house can be sold. This is called monetizing the assets — let’s enjoy the money while we can. Ancillary services here include property swaps and trade-ins, as well as storing or selling of surplus house accessories like furniture and art works. The latter is fueling a growing art auction market.

Banks look at high net worth individuals, like OPLOMs, for wealth management. A financial adviser with empathy for clients who repeat themselves is a prized talent for banks. They defend their customers from elderly abuse to which they may be subjected by relatives and caregivers — is that thing I signed a gate pass or the deed of sale for my proprietary club membership?

“Gray market” has another meaning, referring to market activities that are under the GDP radar, but not necessarily illegal. It’s the “black market”, a darker shade of gray, that is off-limits. Transactions in the gray market may not issue receipts and are conducted mostly in cash. Such activities comprise a whole range of services from pet grooming to online sale of cookies.

The gray-to-gray market refers to oldies availing themselves of services in the gray sector. This may entail inter-generational activities, such as an old male accompanied by a much younger female, who is referred to in confectionary terms, such as “eye candy” which is sugar-free. It is a term used for an attractive human accessory applicable to both genders. The expiry date is usually years away.

Curiously, eye candy only refers to an escort accompanying a very much older companion. Attractive and same-age pairs (two eye candies) are called a power couple with their names abbreviated and fused together like a shop that serves iced cappuccino — Jejune? For Jeff and June.

With the growing gray market, restaurants that hope to attract this niche are advised to keep the music low, explain the menu twice, and keep the draft from the aircon aimed at the empty spaces.


Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda