Why Black Friday was a flop – pensioners don’t buy new TVs

Well, so much for Black Friday. Shops across the UK and the US prepared for scrums that never happened. One man queued outside John Lewis in London last Thursday night while a variety of cold and miserable journalists noted ruefully that the only other people waiting anywhere were other journalists,” says Zoe Williams in the Guardian.

It was the same online. Amazon might have had its best day ever (more than 103 million people shopped online in the US) but overall the figures are pretty disappointing.

Some of the anti-consumption commentators are hoping that it all represents some kind of cultural shift – one that suggests we are somehow becoming better people and rejecting the madness of super shopping days along the way. I doubt this is the case.

At MoneyWeek, we have been listening to demographic experts on this subject for some time now – see my interview with Paul Hodges, for example. And this week might simply be about the way society acts as it ages: the baby boomers shopped frantically until they retired. Now, they just replace things that wear out.

More data on this has just arrived from the International Longevity Centre-UK. A few stats from the study they have just completed with Prudential sum the whole thing up. A household headed by someone over 80 spends on average 43% less than a household headed by a 50-year old. The average over 80-year-old is not consuming but saving – some £5,870 a year.

The retired as a whole are saving around £48bn a year. So the more retired people we have, the more disappointing shopping days we are going to have. Maybe we aren’t turning into better people. We are just turning into older people.