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A global ageing population is something that societies need to consider when catering of older people’s needs. It has been forecast that, by 2050, the number of people classified as old in the world could rise over 2 billion (ONS, 2013; World Population Ageing Report, 2009). Such a demographic shift means that this age group is of considerable interest to retailers and it is important that any research that is undertaken takes into consideration dimensions such as transportation service, social care and pension systems could be improved. 


Supermarkets are undoubtedly one of the most important retail outlets that impact on their day-to-day life. However, very few studies have deeply investigated their shopping experiences in supermarkets. Improving their experiences in shopping and their lifestyle remains an elusive goal for many retailers. In order to address this and to understand differences across cultures and supermarkets in the UK and China the Silver Shoppers project investigates the supermarket shopping experiences of consumers over the age of 65.


The purpose of the research is to improve the retail environment design for this group of shoppers. A better understanding of the shopping behaviour and experience, values and capabilities of this growing population has implications for retail business strategy, social policy and future research on ageing and wellbeing.


Based at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, the Silver Shoppers project is supported by an ESRC Future Research Leaders Grant held by Principal Investigator Dr Yuanyuan Yin with Dr. Ashok Ranchhod, Professor Maria Evandrou and Professor John Ensor as mentors, with further support from the University of Southampton, Tsinghua University, Brunel University, Edinburgh Napier University and Nanjing University.

Figure 1. Conceptual framework for this project

This project aimed to investigate challenges and difficulties that elderly consumers currently face during their supermarket shopping process within a cross-cultural context, and in turn to understand the way in which supermarket service and environment design can improve elderly consumers’ shopping experience in the UK and China.There are four objectives and two research questions in the project:

To explore key issues that are associated with the UK and Chinese elderly consumers’ shopping experience


To investigate the difficulties and challenges that elderly supermarket consumers face in the UK and China

To develop service design guidelines and recommendations for supermarket retailers

To explore possibilities for developing universal design solutions to improve the supermarket service and environment for elderly consumers in the UK and China








What are the key challenges and difficulties that the elderly consumers currently face during their shopping experience in the UK and China?


How to improve the elderly consumers’ supermarket experience by designing better products and service with in-depth considerations of the elderly consumers’ needs?

In order to achieve the research aim and objectives, the project has been carried out through four Work Packages (WP), each of which made a milestone in the project.

Figure 1. Conceptual framework for this project

WP 1

To address the Objective A, focus groups were conducted to investigate key elements which influence the UK and Chinese elderly consumers’ shopping behaviour and experience by evaluating the identified human-based, culture-based and retail-design-based factors from previous literature. The key elements have been used to help with the sampling process and ethnographic study design in the WP2.

WP 2

To address the Objective B, ethnographic user studies have been conducted to investigate the difficulties and challenges that the UK and Chinese elderly consumers currently face during their shopping process. During the user studies, participant shopping inspections and diaries, video-based direct observation, in-depth interviews and a questionnaire survey methods were applied to the collection of data in the regions of West Somerset, South Shropshire and Berwick-upon-Tweed, in the UK, and Shandong, Sichuan and Jiangsu in China. These six regions have been selected because they have a comparatively high proportion of people aged 65 and over in the UK and China (ONS, 2011; National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2011). In total, 60 elderly consumers participated in the user studies, 10 from each of the regains. The questionnaire survey is still on going.

WP 3

To address Objective C, collected data from the WP2 has been intensively analysed to compare differences between the UK and Chinese elderly consumers’ shopping behaviour and experience. Particularly, obtained qualitative data such as video, audio, image and notes will be analysed through content analysis and the collected quantitative data from the questionnaire has be examined through statistical analysis. Statistical analysis will be used to interpret the quantitative data from the questionnaire survey in order to facilitate comparisons across categories and produce objective and accurate results (Kruger, 2003).

WP 4

In order to address Objective D, a ‘Design for Ageing’ program has been informed by the research to create better product, service design ideas, concepts and prototypes for improving the supermarket environment and service for the elderly consumers in the UK ands China. As our research partners, design staff and students from Brunel University (UK) and Tsinghua University (China) are engaged with new product design and development for improving supermarket environment and service for the older customers. Finally, ‘Design for Ageing’ exhibitions will be arranged to display all the newly developed new products and services from this project in the UK and China.

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