It’s the most wonderful time of the year for outlets with a younger clientele as students flee their parents’ homes for another term.
For on-trade operators, this is the time of year to attract new regulars amongst the student population while making sure to retain existing young adult customers.
Stiff competition – from the off-trade to the internet – may present a challenge to publicans, but the firms behind a number of young adult-focused brands say there are a number of effective ways to bring these consumers out of their homes and into the on-trade.
When measuring up the young adult market, Carlo Valente of VC2 Brands, the firm behind Stivy’s, advised publicans to first recognise differences that exist between students and young adults in employment.
“Students and young adults who are not students tend to make different choices,” he said.
“Students mostly have a restricted budget and will make their choices accordingly. Young adults who are earning tend to be more discerning, making choices of what they like rather than what they can afford.”
With this in mind, Valente suggested that the challenging trading conditions found on weekday nights could be converted to a sales opportunity if venues use this time to cater to students.
“With weekday nights proving a more challenging time for operators this provides a platform for the opportunity to put special drinks at lower prices for the students,” he said.
It may not be as tough as midweek, but the weekend brings different challenges as far as competition goes, and Valente suggested operators get creative with their events programme to pull the young adult crowd towards their outlet.
He said: “Operators have a lot of competition from various areas, including music festivals, parties/barbecues at home and sporting events on TV to mention a few, so they have to be creative whether that be putting on live music, having cocktail parties, beach parties, Halloween celebrations and other special occasions to create a special party atmosphere to entice consumers to their establishment.”
In addition to pulling in a crowd, Valente said special events allow operators to promote their venue through social media, both before, during and after the event.
Being savvy with social media is key when marketing to young adult drinkers, suggested Debs Carter of SHS Drinks, the firm behind WKD.
Carter said the lives of young adults today “really do revolve around digital and social media” and so operators need to understand how to appeal to this age group online.
“It’s not enough just to have a Facebook page, in fact, Twitter is now becoming the leading medium,” she said. “And simply posting or tweeting information about your latest new drink or event won’t cut it with these consumers either.
“It’s all about creating interesting interactive content that gets followers to press the ‘share’ button or retweet to others.”
Some publicans may be more switched on to social media than others, but for those who may be a little longer in the tooth, Carter suggested enlisting the help of some younger members of staff who will be “well-equipped to advise, and who could, potentially, be tasked with creating and developing a social media strategy and campaign”.
A publican using social media effectively may well pull a crowd of young adult drinkers to their outlet, but if they want to see them again, then operators must meet expectations with their drinks offer.
Simon Green, marketing director at Global Brands, the firm behind VK, said that young adult consumers “expect more from their drinking experience” than in the past, and encouraged operators to “focus on theatre, experience and premiumisation”.
Steve Howard of Stock Spirits Group, the firm behind vodka-based liqueur brand Keglevich, agreed that today’s young adult consumers are “more demanding” and suggested operators consider introducing specific cocktails to cater for this.
Howard said that “both students and young people want and expect to be able to get cocktails in all types of outlets” and suggested that bars could benefit from having a “simple and easy way to provide an authentic cocktail” that is tailored to young adult drinkers.