Students moving to university offers convenience stores in the area a great opportunity to help them find their feet and win loyal customers. Lee Graham looks at how you can prepare your store.

Know your shopper

The most important consideration for students is value, so you should make sure you are stocking brands and own label lines that will appeal to them. Mark Sterratt, commercial marketing director at Lucozade Ribena Suntory, says: “Pricemarked packs are the best way for retailers to demonstrate value. “Price-marked soft drinks have a faster rate of sale for independent and symbol stores than non-price-marked packs.” However, times have changed, so focusing on value does not necessarily mean doing deals on foods that are low in nutrition or drinks with a high sugar content.

Young adults are increasingly health-conscious – a trend set to continue. Gary Johnson, marketing director for Goodlife Foods, says: “Over the past 12 months, 19% of 18-to 24-year-olds have made a conscious decision to reduce the amount of meat they eat. More than half said health was the reason for doing so.” Adrian Troy, marketing director at AG Barr, adds that students want great quality at a good price. “That’s why brands are important – they’re trusted by young adults,” he says.

Do it: Partner with your nearest university and hand out store leaflets to new students

Student displays

To best appeal to students you should create a display around a specific deal. “Value is an important factor for students. Meal deals where shoppers receive a discount for buying more than one product can help to increase the perception of ‘getting more for your money’,” says Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European
Partners.

You could introduce a lunchtime meal deal with a sandwich, snack and drink at a set price, or link easy meals with a sharing bottle for evenings. Students will often be on their way to or from lectures so your range needs to be convenient and ready to consume. Keeping your soft drinks chilled is at the heart of this. “This is the most important factor to shoppers when purchasing a soft drink,” says Sterratt. “If students can’t buy chilled drinks they may go elsewhere.”

It’s important to consider the times of day that shoppers look for certain products. “Fifty eight per cent of pot snacks are consumed at lunchtime and are often eaten with crisps or a soft drink, so increase sales by placing ‘food-for-now’ categories together,” says Nick Widdowson, Partners for Growth range & merchandising controller.

Do it: Create displays around lunchtime and evening meal deals to offer value

Don’t get caught out

In September, students will descend on towns and cities. These new faces will likely be 18 or over, but younger students might try their luck. Tony Allen, Under Age Sales managing
director, says it’s paramount that retailers are aware of this and take steps to avoid an illegal sale.

Three tips to avoid illegal sales

01) Have an age verification policy in place. Ask anyone who looks 25 or younger to
show ID and promote the policy with PoS.
02) Check ID. All ID must have the customer’s photograph, date of birth and a holographic mark. Suitable ID includes passports, driving licences or a PASS accredited proof-of-age card.
03) Train your staff. Make sure your staff know the rules and are following a standard procedure.

What to stock?

Energy drinks are hugely popular among students as they help them study into the early hours and keep them going through lectures. Seventy-three per cent of students consume one or two energy drinks a week, and coupled with the increase in health awareness, it’s no surprise that low-sugar energy drinks are performing well. Retailers should make sure
their range caters for this need with low- and no-sugar drinks as well as standard varieties.
Sales of pot snacks also spike in September as students are still settling into a new routine.
“The instant hot snacks market is growing,” says Widdowson. “Pot snacks such as Pot Noodle and Dolmio PastaVita, account for two-thirds of the category and are driving growth with new flavours.”

Eighty-two per cent of the category is bought on impulse, which means there is a great
opportunity for retailers near universities to drive sales with promotions and large displays.
Goodlife Foods recently launched a range of protein packed vegetarian ready meals
aimed at students. “The frozen Three Bean Chilli and Vegetable Masala are both
served with cauliflower rice and contain three of your five-a-day,” says the company’s
marketing director Gary Johnson. He adds that sales have been notably stronger in university towns.

Do it: Stock products that offer students value, quality, convenience and health.

Retailer View

Meten“Around the middle of September, we start to do more linked deals – things like pizza and chips for £5.

Students seem to go for more filling meals. We’ve been selling more grocery than ever before. We’ve seen a big uplift in sales of pasta, tins, packets and sauces.

It looks like students are more interested in spending a little bit longer cooking from scratch as it’s healthier. “Energy drinks are very popular. We’ve got three metres dedicated to them, and we’re getting more sugarfree lines.”

Meten Lakhani
St Mary’s Supermarket
(Premier), Southampton