In Korea as elsewhere, consumers over 60 are emerging as the most powerful force in the market. Although people in that age group generally have retired and many feel the pinch, the current generation are most affluent yet because they formed the key workforce during the country's rapid economic development and were able to save money and accumulate assets.
Koreans in their 60s or older overtook those in their 40s in terms of their slice of the overall asset pie over the last six years. No wonder that marketers are rolling out the red carpet to woo them.
According to Statistics Korea, people over 60 accounted for 29.1 percent of total net household assets, compared to the 26.6 percent stake by those in their 40s. Even until 2006, 40-somethings accounted for 31.6 percent of total net assets compared to 27.5 percent by over-60s.
As of the end of June this year, the total amount of money in bank accounts by over-60s stood at W257.6 trillion (US$1=W1,087), up 9.7 percent compared to three years ago. In contrast, the holdings of under-60s grew only 1.2 percent over the same period. As a result, over-60s accounted for 34.8 percent of total bank deposits, although their proportion in the population is only 20 percent.
◆ Big Spenders, Younger Tastes
Affluent people over 60 have become the new big spenders. Among Lotte Department Store customers, their number rose from 56,000 in 2008 to 102,000 last year. In 2008, the group spent W6.2 million a year each on average, and that rose to W7.5 million last year.
And their tastes are getting snazzier. They prefer clothes that usually target younger people. At Shinsegae Department Store, the number of customers over 60 who bought younger casual clothes, jumped 30 percent compared to five years ago. Purchases of blue jeans by the group also rose 20 percent over the same period.
At Lotte Department Store, sales of fast fashion brands, which tend to be popular among young customers, rose more than 30 percent among 60-somethings.
"These consumers try to stay young, enjoy dynamic leisure activities such as camping and buy clothes that suit such lifestyles," said Noh Young-joo at Samsung Fashion Institute.
◆ Mobile Friendly
Consumers over 60 are pursuing younger lifestyles. They communicate through smartphone messenger services and stay out late watching movies. The number of applicants over 60 to KakaoTalk, Korea's most popular free mobile messaging app, is estimated to have doubled to 200,000 over the past year.
Over-60s are big spenders in the smartphone market. According to a study by the Korea Internet Security Agency, the smartphone ownership rate among the age group rose from 4.6 percent in 2011 to 35.9 percent in 2012 and continues to grow.
◆ Appetite for Arts
They are also avid fans of the arts. Movie industry sources say viewers over 60 hold the key to whether a film draws audiences of more than 10 million. The movie "Miracle in Cell No. 7," which opened in January this year, demonstrated their power. Viewers over 60 came to watch it with their children in their 30s and 40s, contributing significantly to the film attracting audiences of 12.9 million.
Kim Min-kook of Fine Works, which produced "Miracle in Cell No. 7," said a survey of the age groups of viewers showed that an estimated 20 percent were 60 or above. "People in this age group, who experienced the heyday of Korean cinema during the 1960s, are very receptive to the humor and other elements that move young viewers," he added.