the spending power of midlife women

The (untapped) spending power of women aged 50+: So why aren’t more beauty brands representing them?

As part of Willowberry’s National Age Without Apology month, we hosted a panel talk with industry experts to discuss: How can we best represent age in beauty? The talk highlighted the glorious potential of women in midlife and beyond. We’ve distilled the chat into three key takeaways that will appear on our blog. First up: Spending Power.

Our panel of speakers:

Jenni Retourné, Founder, Willowberry Skincare and host of the talk

Helena Grzesk MBE, Chief Operating Officer, British Beauty Council

Lorraine Pascale, TV Personality, Best-Selling Author, Life Coach and Founder of The Rebrand

Eleanor Mills, Editor, Broadcaster and Founder of midlife platform Noon

Jan Masters, Telegraph Columnist

Ruby Hammer MBE, Global Make-up Artist and Brand Founder

Sallie Berkery, MD of CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women)

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2020 there were 13 million women aged 50+ and by 2040 this is predicted to rise to 15.3 million, compared to 13.5 million women aged under 50. That’s a lot of women to be largely ignoring in beauty advertising. Willowberry skincare has always championed Age Without Apology, making sure we represent older women within our beauty imagery, use better language around age and help you to age well. We held this industry panel talk to call for the rest of the beauty industry to do the same.

Willowberry’s Founder Jenni Retourné opened the discussion on How Can We Best Represent Age in Beauty, citing a recent report, The Invisible Powerhouse, by MullenLowe Group. It stated that the UK’s over 55s control £6 trillion in assets, hold nearly 70% of all UK household wealth and are fast becoming the biggest spenders in every category. Even more baffling then, that many beauty brands choose to ignore this demographic altogether.

A force to be reckoned with
Women aged 50 and above are increasingly a force to be reckoned with when it comes to spending power. Eleanor Mills shared research commissioned by her Noon group from Accenture which revealed that, “our midlife women are behind 90% of all household spending decisions. The buying power of our market is enormous. We also represent about a quarter of the population, women over 50.”.

Despite this, “women over 50 appear in less than 2% of advertising”. This points to a disconnect between the reality of our lives and the way brands talk to older decades. They are not simply the generation of retirement homes and pension plans. And they’re not as fixated on ‘anti-ageing’ as the industry would have us believe.

Sallie Berkery spoke about another research report, ‘Age Diversity in Beauty; why brands should be targeting the 50+ consumer’ carried out by 2CV and presented by CEW. 50+ women are a tech savvy bunch it turns out, with a third of over 50s posting their own content on social media and a third playing video games.

The old stereotypes no longer hold (although as Sallie Berkery pointed out, that doesn’t mean we don’t also enjoy sitting in a conservatory drinking a G&T).

The modern version of midlife
The fact is that older women are more varied and more powerful than brands give them credit for. They have spending power and they have confidence in their decisions. For many, midlife plus is a time of new opportunities, broadening horizons, freedom and fun. They are a demographic bursting with untapped potential. It’s time to realise what a fabulous resource mature women are when it comes to big business.

And yet the Noon report also found that over 50% of women surveyed said that they feel invisible. Hardly surprisingly, 70% of women would be far more likely to buy from a brand which represented them in an authentic way. Which begs the question, why aren’t brands waking up to this? “We want to feel represented. I would be much happier supporting a brand that I feel resonates personally with me,” Helena Gzresk said. “I’m 42. I look at what I spend on my skincare now and how I invest (compared to) when I was in my 20s and it’s completely different.”

Mature women who know their own minds and have money to invest, whether that’s in property, finance or a skincare product, are a potential goldmine for businesses. All that’s missing is a recognition of who they are, of their wants and needs. It comes down to communication. They want to be seen. And spoken to authentically. 

A midlife revolution
It seems that what is needed is nothing short of a revolution. Eleanor Mills led a call to arms: “I would really like advertising to be presenting women in their prime but the reason why they don’t is because, to men, that later bit of women’s lives is not valuable. What we need is a revolution in where the power lies in society. The beauty industry could really shape that.”

While the subject of money and spending power may seem crass in relation to better representation of midlife women in beauty, it’s a reality that money matters when it comes to business. So if these brands want midlife women to spend their money on the brands’ products, why don’t they have the courtesy of representing these women and speaking to them authentically in return?

Eleanor summed it up beautifully: “We need to change the narrative if the changes that we want to see in media and advertising and beauty are going to come. Get (brands) to understand that they’re coming at this from completely the wrong point of view. Changing that will have such an enormous effect on both older and younger women and the way they see themselves and the way they value themselves. The effect of that could be amazingly powerful on the whole of the rest of society.”

When it comes to the bottom line, Ruby Hammer put it in black and white, “You’re losing financial opportunities here if you ignore this group. It’s not about anti-ageing, it’s not about pro-ageing. It’s about the individual. Talk to everyone in an intelligent way.”

Sallie flagged midlife women to businesses as a “…missed opportunity. They’ve got money to spend on your products, why are you not talking to them?”.

Ending on a positive note, Sallie acknowledged that, “It takes time for big businesses to listen to what the consumers want. We’ve got to be brave. It’s really exciting to be part of this movement.”

At Willowberry, we are proud to be leading the way.


Willowberry is nutritious natural skincare for grown-ups, for your best skin. 

A favourite with top make-up artists, Willowberry's luxurious award-winning products protect skin’s natural barrier function, to nourish and revive grown-up skin without telling women to be 'anti-ageing'.

As seen in Vogue, Independent, The Telegraph, This Morning and more.