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Economy

Seniors give nod to lean meat, group exercise and cozy strollers

Japanese businesses are rewarded for going silver

Some Japanese women participate in a light group workout.

TOKYO -- Retailers, take note. Almost half of all consumer spending in Japan is done by households headed by individuals who are at least 60, according to an estimate by Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. The research arm of the life insurer estimates that spending by these households totaled some 118 trillion yen ($1.05 trillion) in 2016 -- 49% of all consumer spending in the country and 10 percentage points higher than a decade earlier.

No wonder, then, that businesses are increasingly targeting active retirees and near-retirees.

A supermarket in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward holds calisthenics sessions every morning. Aeon's outlet last December began piping in a radio exercise program with music. In Japan, doing a light morning workout by following a radio host is a bit like elderly Chinese beginning their day with some tai chi.

The in-store exercise routines, together with other measures, have helped boost the store's sales by 10% from year-earlier levels, a representative said.

One Tuesday in September, The Nikkei dropped by the store to take a look. Two sessions were held that day, one at 7 a.m. and the other at 8. In all, 80 mostly elderly people participated.

"Everybody was coming by themselves at first," a housewife in her 60s said, "but we quickly became friends."

According to store manager Kohei Nakahara, participants often have breakfast together or shop together in the store after working out.

Since the morning workouts were introduced, store revenue has increased by around 10%. When they invited a traditional enka singer to perform in store in the late afternoon, they noticed that the senior customers were returning to the store for the second time in a day.

Aeon plans to have 100 outlets focus on older customers by 2025. These stores will feature more products like reading glasses and canes.

Asrapport Dining's steak chain featuring lean cuts has hit a jackpot with Japan's elders.

Asrapport Dining, which operates the Gyu-Kaku chain of Korean barbecue eateries and other restaurants, hit the jackpot last October when it opened a new steak restaurant that features lean cuts. It did not take long for elderly diners to flock to it, and customer visits have been three times more than what the company had expected.

The company is taking advantage of a meat-eating boom among Japanese seniors, many of whom believe that such a diet will help them to live longer.

The restaurant has also found another benefit of catering to seniors. Takanari Nakajima, chief of marketing at Asrapport Dining, said older patrons spend much more at the restaurant than younger diners.

"A 1,000 yen discount lunch is the favorite menu item for younger customers," Nakajima said, "but elderly customers order steaks costing 3,000 yen to 4,000 yen, and they come more frequently."

Asrapport Dining now has two such restaurants and plans to open eight more before April 2019. The company's share price on Sept. 28 was 7% above last year's close.

Apparel retailer Shimamura has changed its low-price strategy at its Birthday child's clothes chain. Eyeing grandparents eager to spend for their grandchildren, in August they introduced a 40,000 yen ($350) water-absorbing stroller.

Although times are tough for the apparel industry, children's clothes are bucking the trend, thanks to some strong financial aid from senior sponsors.

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