FORUM: AGING BOOMERS SET PACE FOR HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING

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The question on just about every retailer's lips these days is, "How's this Christmas season going to do?"

From where I sit and observe consumers, I think that this will be one of the strongest holiday sales seasons in years!

Bill Clinton has been re-elected, so even for those who did not support him, there is a feeling of economic stability. Sony, Magnavox and others are touting "Internet TVs," allowing even the most computer phobic to feel a part of today's world.

But perhaps the most significant difference this year is that the baby boomers have finally hit 50.

There is no doubt that with the 76 million boomers turning 50, things are going to change. We boomers are spoiled, want everything our way, and will do whatever we can to stay young. I'd like to offer five specific product and marketing arenas that will directly impact this year's holiday sales.

Remember that boomers are very "self" oriented. What that means at the checkout counter is both gift giving and self-giving. Look for boomers this year to buy lots of self indulgences for jobs well done, and for just lasting this long.

The big opportunities are certainly health and beauty related. Boomers do want to stay young and look great. The rise in cosmetic plastic surgery has just been practice for things to come. In addition to this medical sector doing quite well- look for a significant rise in the advertising and marketing of cosmetic surgery through infomercials, videos and Web sites.

Boomers also want to revive sex! While it's true that this generation created the "free love" era, boomers are now searching for true love [and romance]. Many have failed marriages, second (or third) marriages, and are beginning second families at midlife. Look for Boomer Sensuality to effect and drive Christmas gift giving! Those products that are sexy [or at least promise romance] will sell out.

Expect every item that promises to deliver efficiency and time savings to prosper. Every generation has always said they needed more time - but boomers seem to need it. With a frantic lifestyle, we are constantly searching for the best organizer, the most efficient travel, and a way to wake up just 10 minutes earlier.

Boomers in business are tired. No one ever thought that it would be this hard! We were raised to believe that if we went to college and studied hard, at graduation we got a job (for life), wife and kids, house and a dog. Then while in college we took a slight detour and decided it was our job to change the world. No one ever expected these kinds of mergers, layoffs and re-engineering to effect our lives.

Look for boomers to take the holiday season to contemplate the future and cash out of the normal workforce. Some will decide this year to drop out, create small or one-person businesses, or even move to the beach. Some will take extended sabbaticals. The impact at retail on portable and home-based business equipment will be significant.

By the way, the biggest gift of all this year might well be to Generation X. The overlapping generation of boomers and Xers (born between 1960 and 1964) will finally get their chance and take over. Raised with computers, television, independence, a strong desire for financial security and prosperity-and much less of a desire to change the world-look for this group to do great things in business.M

Phil Lempert, trend forecaster and lecturer, writes a syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune and is a correspondent for NBC's "Today" show. His next book, "The Lempert Report: Top Ten Trends For Baby Boomers in Business," will be published in fall 1997. He can be reached at LempertP1@

aol.com.

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