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CHICAGO -- A new study by The Nielsen Co. scheduled to be released today suggests that there is a new market segment, a subset of the baby boom generation, that provides financial support to elderly and/or retired parents. More than one out of five baby boomers, according to the study, “contribute to the financial upkeep of a senior parent,” while almost a quarter “help out an adult child not in college.”

According to the study, “almost 40% of Boomer Pivot Spenders paid out $1,000+ per year to help their elderly parents, while an impressive 56% contributed at least that amount to supplement an adult child as they established an independent life outside the family home. The top two areas of need/contribution for both older parents and adult children were groceries [58% and 47% respectively] and housing [47% and 37% respectively].

“Other areas where senior parents were likely to receive financial assistance included medical care [22%], clothing [21%] and car expenses [18%]. For adult children, additional areas of Boomer support included car expenses [46%], clothing [41%] and medical care [37%].”

This so-called “poly-household perspective,” according to the study, suggests one of the reasons that retailers like Costco are popular (consumers can buy multi-packs and then split them up among various households) and that there may be as yet-untapped cross-merchandising opportunities.
KC's View:
Being a baby boomer with both elderly parents and children emerging from the teen years, we sort of feel like Michael Corleone in the “The Godfather Part III,” a movie that really didn’t need to exist except for the fact that it had one of the most recognized lines in movie history:

”Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.”

(Actually, we’re very lucky, since our parents are self-supporting living independent lives…we hope we are as much so when we get older.)

But this is a fascinating premise, that sort of redefines what the shopping experience might mean for significant group of people.

In his Sunday presentation at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Show, Chip Health talked about having “concrete” images of who the customer is. The notion of a baby boomer who is filling the larders of his or her own home, as well as that of parents and children, strikes us as a fairly specific image around which marketing and merchandising campaigns could be built in appropriate cases.