Consumer Skills
15th November 2007


Older people in Northern Ireland pump some £5.7 billion[1] into the local economy every year. The grey pound is big business, yet older people still face problems when they’re out shopping for food. The Consumer Council today launched its latest research on the issue - Silver Service – Are Supermarkets Meeting the Needs of Older Shoppers? and secured a public commitment from leading supermarkets to work harder for older customers.

<a href="">Check out what older people really think about shopping in supermarkets here... </a>

Steve Costello, Chairman of the Consumer Council said: “Being able to get to the shops to buy things we need for a healthy diet is important to everyone, but particularly for older people.  Yet many find that things like lack of public transport, nowhere to sit down in store and too much packaging can make shopping much harder than it should be. 

“This research in partnership with Age Concern put older people centre stage from the start.  They were not shy about telling us their stories and painted a true picture of what food shopping is like for them.  Although older people view shopping as a chance to get out and about, it can become a chore because they can’t get a bus or train to the store, they struggle to get things off high and low shelves and find too much packaging hard to handle.  We are pleased that Asda, Curley’s, Marks and Spencer and Tesco are making a public commitment today to help make food shopping a more positive experience for older people.  Happy customers are good for business.”

Tom Cairns of Age Concern said: “Having access to healthy, nutritional food is a big issue for older people and we were delighted to work with the Consumer Council on this research project.  In particular, I want to commend how the research was undertaken because older people were at the heart of the process.  Shopping for food is about more than getting out to the shops - it’s a social activity that can make or break someone’s day.  We all have a responsibility to ensure that older people are able to get the things they need easily and enjoy a high quality of life.“

Steve Costello concluded: “Older shoppers have made their voice heard and this research provides valuable intelligence for supermarkets.  The challenge now is for them to grasp this opportunity and respond to the issues raised by older consumers by establishing an Older People’s Advisory Panel to ensure that their views continue to be heard for years to come.”  

Key Findings from the Research

·       Almost half believed that better public transport would improve their shopping experience.


·       Long, narrow aisles, lack of rest areas, poor signage and labelling and very high or low shelves are a problem.

·       Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents would like help with packing their shopping.

·       Older people living alone often want small quantities[2] of food so buy one get one free’ and ‘3 for 2’ offers often don’t work well for them – they would rather have discounts off individual products.

·       Two-thirds (65 per cent) think there’s too much packaging on food products and that some are difficult to open.


Silver Service Launch

  1. Consumer Council media contact: Susie Brown, telephone, 028 9067 4807  or e-mail,[email protected].  
  2. The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland’s consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about electricity, natural gas, coal, passenger transport and water.
  3. For more information, visit our website at

[1]Age Concern England (2005) Older richer fitter  David Metz and Michael Underwood – reported that UK people over 50 spend £175 billion a year, accounting for 45 per cent of total consumer spending[1].

[2] Age Concern (2005) Minimum Income for Healthy Living P.9