Ignore the over-40 market at your peril: they're an economic force to be reckoned with.
This is according to a study by the UCT Unilver Institute for Strategic Marketing and Synovate, which find that the 1,9-million South African who are over 40 years old and cliassified as between LSM (living standard measure) 7 and 10, have a combined income of R300-billion.
Entitled Prime Time, the research project shows that despite the current economic downturn, this golden seam of South Africa's biggest spenders are more recession-resistant than their counterparts under-40 years.
The statistics also show startling growth in recent years – growth that is destined to continue for many years.
Since 2004, the number of black South Africans in the mature market has increased by over 30% and is expected to continue growing at 10% per annum in the foreseeable future.
Prof John Simpson, director of the Institute, explains that there are several drivers of growth in this market including the phenomenon of the baby boomer generation as seen elsewhere in the world, as well as the increasing number of "Black Diamonds" who are entering the mature market as they age.
One of the factors that contribute to this market's prosperity is that many Prime Timers are not as burdened by debt as their younger counterparts, explains Prof Simpson. He adds that about 70% of all Prime Time respondents state they have managed to settle most of their debt, while half of those who are older than 50 years maintain they are debt-free.
FNB brand director, Derek Carstens, believes the lessons from this research are clear and invaluable to local marketers.
"If you are looking for an immediate return on your marketing investment, you have got to be in this market. Not only is it an important market right now, it's going to be even more important in the future."
Prof Simpson believes the recent research could be a godsend to many South African businesses during the current economic downturn.
"Since this market is much bigger and faster-growing than generally perceived, it presents golden opportunities to effectively engage with them. This market is also destined to continue booming thanks to the corresponding growth of Black Diamonds.
The study shows the far-reaching socio-economic impact that Prime Timers wield, despite making up only 6% of South Africa's adult population. They own 28% of all cars and 30% of Prime Timers invest on the stock exchange, while they also account for just under one-third of all university degree holders in the country.
Despite the economic clout that their financial freedom gives them, many in the Prime Time research report feeling overlooked and under-valued by retailers, product developers and service providers.
"Our study reveals many South Africans over-40 believe that most marketing messages are aimed at those in their 20s and 30s and feel alienated by marketing communication, overlooked by product developers and dissatisfied with customer service," explains Prof Simpson.
"Traditionally marketers have focused their marketing communication on the under-40 market. The reality is that the majority of this market has less disposable income than Prime Timers. While international marketing counterparts are aggressively targeting the over-40s, South African marketers have been slow in recognizing this segment's economic significance."