Let’s start out by saying that I am a Baby Boomer. Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Baby Boomer generation are the people that were born to the Greatest Generation. This is the group of Americans who survived the Great Depression, went off and won World War II, and came back and rebuilt America. When they came back to America they got married, started careers, and had children…lots of children. Remember, they had been off to war so there was this huge void of children being born until the men and women got back to America. Hence, the Baby Boomer generation. Much like the media likes to put names on the various generations of today, we got a name.
For the next 60 years everything we touched became huge. When we started going to school, there were not enough schools for us so our parents built more schools, lots more schools. When we got to high school, they wanted us to stay in school and get a better education than they did so they went and built more colleges. Lots more colleges and even Junior Colleges (later called Community Colleges). Then we fought our own war and came back from that, but not to cheering parades like our parents. So we used our education and went to work.
While we didn’t start Silicon Valley and Silicon Prairie and all of the other places where you could use a transistor, we sure put the fire in their growth. Because our parents insured we had every opportunity we took advantage the ones that make sense to us. We did well in our lives.
President Kennedy had us involved in physical fitness so we played sports, exercised, and traveled more than any other generation before us. He also ignited our technology leadership when we began to lag behind Russia in the space race by declaring we would be first to the moon. This effort might in fact be responsible for our current technology leadership decades later.
As adults we got to be part of the beginnings of the computer as a tool usable throughout business, not just in the IT department. We got to enjoy the easy access to cellular phones (yes, we used the entire word) and cable TV (not sure what ever happened to the outside antennas and rabbit ears. Remember when you would yell at your brother for walking in front of the rabbit ears and messing up the signal?)
And, as a whole, we did well financially. While not everyone became rich, we did more than OK. The Baby Boomer generation today is the wealthiest generation in the history of the world. We can, as a group, buy what we want, eat well, and travel to see our grand children.
But, there is no store for us. Shocking if you asked me and if you didn’t you should have. How can the entire retail community and their collective minds have forgotten about the Baby Boomers? We fueled them through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s and now we have been kicked to the curb. No one cares that we have more disposable income than Gen X, Y or whatever letters they come up with. We are simply not paid attention to. Our parents are certainly catered to with all of the special services being offered by Senior communities and health organizations, but we are not ready for that. While we are in our 60’s now, we are not an old 60 thanks to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and the goals we had. We are, for the most part, pretty young for 60.
So, someone pay attention. There should be a clothing store for us. For women Chico’s and Talbot’s do a good job. Stylish clothing that fits the body that you have when you are 60, not 16.
But, what about the men? Where do we go for similar options that women have? In the specialty arena there is simply not a store aimed at the male end of the Baby Boomer Generation. While we don’t get dressed to go out to dinner like our parents did, we sometimes want something nicer than a golf shirt and shorts. And, we want to be able to chat with employees that knows what he or she is talking about. Chico’s has this and so does Talbots. Why not men? If you were to walk through a mall and look at the stores you would quickly come to the conclusion that American women are well dressed and men walk around naked. I have seen men naked before, this is not a sight we should want to share with anyone.
Next let’s go onto electronics. The Baby Boomer generation is more informed about electronics than our parents, but much less informed than our children. We have the money to make our life more enjoyable as well as a basic understanding that things can get done, we just don’t get excited about the next app that can bring us nirvana. We had nirvana in the 60’s and it was not nearly as good as we thought it was going to be.
The problem with electronics in general is the opposing pull of two different forces. One the one hand is the constant pressure of lowering prices of products. In 1972 a four function calculator cost $119.95 and we could not keep them in stock. Today they are $2 or less. In 2005 a 50 inch Plasma TV cost $3,500, today that TV is all but blister packed and cost $299 or less. So the manufacturers add more features to the product to keep the retail price up. So, instead of a four function calculator you get a calculator that is functions you wanted in 1972. And that TV now is 4X HD with features that no one can explain, and if they could you still would not know why you needed them.
And on the other had you have consumers that simply don’t need to have 2,000,000 apps on their phone, 200 features on their SLR, and a refrigerator that will order food for you.
We need our own store.This EASY Electronics store would be for Baby Boomers. It would have “not so smart” phones. Phones that would have big buttons already installed with extra loud speakers that could be compatible with our hearing aids. There would be just a few features already installed that would make sense. Perhaps a program that would allow our kids to know where we are…if we wanted to let them know. It would have just a few SLR cameras. The software attached with this would be easy. Perhaps an RF product built in that would allow this camera to talk with our computer. It would have easy-to-use computers without most of the features that gamers are looking for, but basic communications software. It would have electronic health equipment that would make our lives easier. And if we bought a product like a Fit Bit, we would be asked to bring our laptop to the store and we would load the app for you. Because this store would not be the cheapest store in town, it would be the smartest. The employees would be trained to speak to Boomers. We don’t mind paying for things that we need to make our life better. Easy Electronics would also have products that would make our travel life better. EE would be happy to insure your GPS worked and would show you the easiest and most economical way to use it in the country you are traveling to. We would also set up your phone so that it worked in that country.
And finally in EE we would have a “grandchildren’s” section. This would be the place where you could find smart electronics. Our smart electronics would be products that would prepare grandchildren for the future. Not just computers projects, but robotic projects as well. Our customers would be known as the cool grandparents who think about their grandchildren’s intellectual growth without making it boring.
So, someone build us a store. We promise to come and visit and buy if you have done it right. We need our own store. We all promise to give you free “consulting” on this store for the first 10 hours of questions you have, but build us a store. Whoever does it first will have a winner.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.