Stores for seniors: How convenience retailer Lawson is meeting needs of the elderly population

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Kazunari addressing the crowd at the Healthy Ageing APAC Summit 2019.
Kazunari addressing the crowd at the Healthy Ageing APAC Summit 2019.

Related tags Lawson Convenience stores Healthy ageing elderly food

From store design to product selection, Japanese convenience store giant Lawson has made great strides in transforming its stores to cater to the country’s increasingly elderly population, including one-stop healthcare shops especially tailored to their needs.

According to Lawson Deputy Senior Vice President and Healthcare Division Director Kazunari Ogawa, the first fact to take into consideration is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to providing for the senior population.

“Elderly people are very diverse – we needed to adjust our services to fit their needs and wants,”​ he said while addressing the audience at our recent Healthy Ageing APAC Summit 2019 event in Singapore.

“In Japan, the current rate of ageing stands at 30%, and this is expected to hit 40% by 2060. Conversely, the population in 2050 is expected to reach 95 million people, but decrease to 48 million people by 2100, so there is a clear downward trend.

“The major challenges that we have to deal with when it comes to ageing are lifestyle and personalised nutrition – [and this is what] our new concept one-stop healthcare shop hopes to address.”

Lawson’s new convenience store concept has just one store entrance in hopes of providing a ‘welcoming path’, and incorporate three separate spaces under one roof: Pharmacy, Convenience store and Consultation.

“This is a very unique concept [which we have conceptualised] targeting the elderly,” ​said Ogawa.

“Not only can they get a consultation and personalised advice from a dietitian, they also have easy access to recommended items in the convenience store and can make purchases quickly and easily.”

He added that such consultations could be done in a hospital, but this would be much less convenient.

“You would need to make an appointment as well as expend extra energy to walk around and buy the recommended food items – not this is no longer needed,”​ Ogawa said.

“The elderly have a smaller circle of travel as compared to us, and this is something that we needed to consider carefully [when planning our the store].”

Products for the elderly

He also highlighted some products which had been purposely selected to be placed in the store with the elderly in mind.

“One example is a high-calorie flavoured drinks range by Meiji, which is suitable for those with unbalanced diets, small appetites or no time to eat. It provides high levels of calories in just 125ml, is optimally balanced in nutrition, and is handy and easy to drink,”​ said Ogawa.

Another example was that of elderly-targeted shoes, where he narrated how the company tried and failed to make their own in-house version but later realised a much more specialised approach was needed.

By partnering with specialised shoe company Tokutake Sangyo which provides customised shoe sizes for each customer’s left and right feet, Lawson successfully turned this situation around and drew in elderly customers.

Words of wisdom

Offering advice from Lawson’s years of trial-and-error, Ogawa said that one of the most common mistakes made when marketing to the elderly is to name or label the product ineffectively.

“The labelling has to suit the elderly – most pensioners do not think that they are old, and will not buy products labelled as such because it makes them feel old,”​ he explained.

“Another mistake we learned from was that of assuming their shopping purpose. We tried to convert one of our stores to appeal to the elderly by removing all the children’s items and putting in elderly-focused ones, but ended up having customers ask for those back for their grandchildren– this showed that their needs vary, and they shop not just for themselves but also their families.”

He added that communication was very important as well, and given that the majority of store staff was likely from a younger generation, the company ensured that proper training was given to them.

“Smaller product units are also another key point of interest for the elderly – we always assumed that price was the most important factor, but we were wrong. Many preferred smaller product units over getting the best value,”​ said Ogawa.

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