Keep up with the new kids in town

Themed events are key to unlocking student sales, according to drinks firms

Freshers’ week can prove lucrative for both late night bar and nightclub operators.
Freshers’ week can prove lucrative for both late night bar and nightclub operators.

FRESHERS’ week arguably remains one of the biggest events in the Scottish bar and nightclub calendar, holding the potential to attract students in their droves.

But competition for young adult custom remains as fierce as ever, meaning that operators must be both switched on and fully prepared in order to make the most of the influx of students, say drinks firms.

Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), told SLTN that freshers’ week is an ideal time for pubs, bars and nightclubs to make a lasting impression with students new to the area.

“It’s a time for socialising and discovery for students, and this extends to food and drink,” she said.

Echoing this view, Christian Sarginson of Global Brands, the firm behind RTD brand VK, said it is especially important for venues close to university and college campuses to engage with freshers as they “often rely on a busy freshers’ week to give them a boost as they head into the winter months, while ensuring they cement themselves as a key player in the student bar landscape”.

To do this, said Sarginson, operators must “do all they can to entice both new and old customers through the doors to encourage them to come back time and time again throughout the year”.

So what steps can operators take to secure student custom?

Themed nights should be high on the agenda, according to Gayle Humphrey of Brown-Forman-owned Jack Daniel’s.

“Themed nights and events are essential for bars and clubs as they create fun and exciting experiences that appeal to students,” she said.

“On-trade outlets should capitalise on these occasions and develop their offer by linking them to calendar hooks like Halloween or Christmas.”

Sarginson of Global Brands agreed, saying themed nights and events continue to “play a huge role during freshers’ week”.

“With so much competition, it’s down to pub, bar and late night venue operators to ensure they create themed nights that really stand out from the crowded student club night scene – while still meeting students’ needs,” said Sarginson.

He added that, while foam and beach parties “will always attract students, going the extra mile to make it stand out will only help to improve sales”.

He added that, with stricter Scottish legislation in place forbidding the kind of drinks promotions offered in the past, operators “need to push forward social experiences, arguably more [so] than in the rest of the UK”.

For example, Sarginson said collaborating with drinks firms can be a way of drawing in larger crowds.

But to draw in crowds of any size, operators must reach students where they’re most often found: online.

Sarginson reckons social media remains “one of the best ways to communicate with students”.

“Incredibly powerful, it provides a cost-effective way to not only establish a brand, but also build it up,” he said.

However, once students are through the door, attention must also be paid to the drinks on offer.

Humphrey of Jack Daniel’s believes that students “are becoming increasingly interested in consuming products that are innovative and of a better quality”.

Burgess of CCEP agreed, adding that attention must be paid to an outlet’s cocktail offer, while also keeping an eye on ‘consumer favourites’.

However, Sarginson of Global Brands said students “have always been price driven, and this doesn’t look set to change in the near future”.