Despite tuition fees tripling in 2012 there are still more than two million students in the UK – an important customer demographic for any retailer located near a university.

Retail Newsagent looks at how to get students to visit during Freshers’ Week brings and to keep them coming back for the rest of the year.

Freshers’ Week

Retailers can deploy a range of tactics to get students wandering into their store for the first time.

Adverts in student newspapers and noticeboards

Family Shopper retailer Khuram Pervez, whose store is wedged between Newcastle and Northumbria universities, circulates vouchers in leaflets and flyers distributed to student housing. These give students £1 off every £5 spent in his store for a limited time.

Keyrings and other stationery

Blean Village Londis owner Bintesh Amin aims to raise awareness of his store by getting other local businesses in Canterbury to distribute branded key rings and other promotional products to their customers. “I am in the process of speaking to clubs and bars in the area that I would like to work with,” he says.

Goody bags and giveaways

Successful retailers including Khuram and Paul Stone, who has five stores in Manchester,  have used goody bags to highlight their stores to students. They advertise the bags at the front of the store and get staff to hand them out with purchases. Contents include sweets and energy drinks, while one year, Paul added green spoons that students could use to claim a free coffee on their next visit.

A dedicated freshers’ display of products and promotions

A dedicated display helps students who are new to the store find what they’re looking for. Similarly, blocking related products together, such as beer and crisps, makes that first trip around the store even simpler for new customers. Retailers could also create a calendar display of key promotional dates building up to and including Fresher’s Week.

The rest of the year

Retailers want to make sure that, during that all-important first visit, students are given plenty of reasons to return again and again. Here are some ideas on how to make that happen.

 Create a perception of value throughout the store

Pricemarking is a tried-and-tested method for achieving this. It’s available on popular student products such as Kepak-owned Rustlers burgers, pricemarked at £1.99. Placing displays of pricemarked or low-cost products near the entrance helps accentuate a first-time customer’s impression that the store offers excellent value.

 Promote ready meals and other easy-to-cook products
Students aren’t renowned for their dedication to cooking fresh food, so a strong selection of single-service meals, snacks and drinks can help retailers target the student lifestyle. The availability of these products can be highlighted by providing free samples during Freshers’ Week, a tactic Kepak is employing by visiting campuses and handing out free samples of Rustlers products as part of its FlaminTasty campaign.

Loyalty cards and student discounts

Catching students with loyalty schemes during Freshers’ Week should encourage them to return to the store throughout the rest of the year. Paul Stone, for example, has launched a loyalty card for coffee bought in his store.

Offer other services that are useful to students

Wendy Frost in Falmouth, Cornwall, offers key-cutting services to students and their landlords. Other possibilities include package delivery arrangements, easily set up through companies such as Hermes, or teaming up with local businesses to offer a laundry service, dry-cleaning facilities – plus whatever else you can find in your local area.

For the full feature see this week’s Retail Newsagent or subscribe here.