One demographic that often gets missed in the convenience store world is the college crowd. Often looked over due to misnomers about a “lack of disposable income,” students are large contributors to the success of convenience stores within proximity to their dorms and apartments.
What’s more, these younger millennials are representing a larger percentage of your customer base each day. It’s time to go after them.
For years, business owners have been wary of opening year-round shops on or near college campuses. Questions such as, “How will business fare during summer when all of the students go home?” or “With the rise and fall of the economy, can we count on students to be our key demographic?” would make even the most daring businessman cautious.
Jason Bakker (chief operating officer of Bloomington, Minn.-based Campus Media Group) however doesn’t show any of those fears. "Freshmen are showing up on campus regardless of how the economy is doing."
What’s more, there are summer programs to consider, as well as the presence of year-round commuter students, local faculty, and support staff.
A Captive Audience?
If there is one thing about college students that makes them an attractive customer, it’s that they don’t stop moving. Whether it’s an 8AM class or an 11PM pizza run, college students are always up to something.
With campus safety concerns being a growing topic in the last year, it would seem like a great idea to have something available on, or near campus for those late-night snackers.
Unfortunately, as most of us are aware, there often aren’t many (if any) options for late-night, on-campus meals. In fact, a lot of campus stores keep hours so strange that some students would much rather not bother.
Matthew McGovern, CEO of Shop24 says, “Having a convenience store located in or near student housing answers the safety worries of many students, their parents and college officials. Without a convenient location to grab something, students have no choice but to go off campus.”
Figuring out how to manage inventory for the college crowd is a matter of understanding what this demographic needs? First and foremost, quick and easy meal choices. Options such as freshly prepared/made-to-order items and roller grill cuisine are two huge staples for individuals between classes or functions.
Breakfast items offer great early morning meal choices for on-the-go students. Late night offerings such as noodles, pizza, or other meal replacement products are also high on the list of must-have items.
Other healthy, single-serving items such as yogurt, cheese sticks, and trail mix are often overlooked (but highly valued) within the crowd. Especially when these items are grab-and-go ready for students on the move.
Of course, let’s not forget that college students also crave energy drinks, salty snacks, and one of the bigger college staple items: beer. The latter might be prohibited if your store is located on the actual campus.
Keep the above in mind, and track sales through your inventory management system to note patterns and determine what items are selling best. Colleges are a diverse crowd of tastes, so you may find multiple opportunities to stock a variety of items.
Loyalty Programs for Students
If there is one thing that students don’t turn down, it’s free stuff. If you’ve managed to make your business the go-to for your local college crowd, it’s probably about time you secure that crowd for yourself with a loyalty program.
The best loyalty programs are free, and easy for the consumer to participate in. (Think key-fob cards or phone number lookup.) Loyalty program doesn’t mean you must give mountains of goods away for free, but it does mean incentivizing your customers to keep them coming back to you.
Going After the College Crowd is an A+ Strategy
Of course, you aren’t going to pick up shop and move across town to the local college campus. However, if you’re fortunate enough to operate within a college community, the tips above can help you crack this market and open up a new customer base.
If you are still not using CStorePro to manage your inventory, now to learn why you should!