Entrepreneurs see prospects in grey

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 June, 2012, 12:00am


Silver is gold for a new breed of entrepreneurs as 300,000 baby boomers are set to reach retirement age in the next five years.

The government-appointed Steering Committee on Population Policy last week said a likely shrinkage of the labour force as a result of ageing could hinder the city's development, but some entrepreneurs see new opportunities opening up as the population greys.

Regine Auyeung, who used to work for an international insurance company, spotted just such an opportunity and co-founded Sencare with two partners last year. The company specialises in retailing products for senior citizens.

Government statistics show 18 per cent of Hongkongers are over 60, which will increase to 33.6 per cent by 2030. About 60,000 people retire every year at present.

'The new retirees are in better health than previous generations. The grey-hair business has proved to be a hit in Japan, and I believe the same will happen in Hong Kong,' Auyeung said.

More shops like Sencare's have opened for business in the city in the past few years, selling medical aids such as wheelchairs and sticks, and other products tailored for seniors. Sencare targets a more premium niche, however, importing from Japan items like Sakura Colour walking sticks and ultralight shoes.

'Many seniors demand a good lifestyle. At present, most fashion shops and retailers target young people. In comparison, there aren't that many shops tailored for the old. I believe there's a lot of room for expansion in this sector,' Auyeung said, adding that half of her sales come from youngsters and tourists buying for their parents or grandparents.

Japan, where 30 per cent of the population is over 60, has already seen a mushrooming of department stores with huge sections dedicated to products for seniors. Auyeung believes Hong Kong will go that way.

'When more people reach retirement age here, the retail business will be forced to reorient itself. What is happening in Japan today will happen in Hong Kong, and seniors will emerge as the big spenders.'

Financial analysts also believe ageing will bring new business opportunities to certain sectors. A Schroders report, for example, says the global population aged over 65 will treble by 2050, by which time 30 per cent of the world's people will be over 65.

This will boost the demand for products for retired people, and increase the share price of companies that offer a product with appeal to older people, like travel companies.

Legislator Paul Chan Mo-po said old-age-related businesses had a good future.

'I am in my 50s and I am among those from the lucky generation that lived and earned in the golden 80s. When I retire, I believe I will have more money to spend than my father had after his retirement.

'I would like to see more retailers providing products suitable for people like me.'