Freshers’ week can win over new fans

Students can be turned into repeat customers with great, themed nights out 

THERE’S no denying some late night venues have had a tough time of it in recent years as drinking patterns amongst consumers change.

However, one group that can be relied upon to regularly boost the night time economy is students.

Last year, a study by the Deltic Group revealed that while 56.4% of UK consumers go on a night out at least once a week, this figure rises to almost 70% among 18 to 30 year olds.

And there’s no better time to introduce a venue’s offer to students new on the scene than freshers’ week.

“The start of the autumn term is a key sales period and a chance for operators to impress the new academic in-take in the quest for repeat trade,” said Amanda Grabham, head of brand marketing – alcohol at SHS Drinks, owner of WKD.

“In the first few weeks of term students are finding their feet in terms of new surroundings, new people and new places to enjoy themselves. It’s a great time to forge new friendships and create lasting memories.

The venues that deliver experiences will win in the long-run as students return time and again.

“The pubs, bars and nightclubs that can deliver experiences and ‘instagrammable’ moments will win in the long-run as there’s every chance they’ll become the regular haunts that students will return to time and time again in the following years.”

In order to make sure a sizeable section of the student market is captured during the week, and for the rest of the year, theme nights have been held up by drinks firms as a way to help pubs and clubs promote themselves as somewhere to have fun.

Jen Draper, head of marketing at VK owner Global Brands, said: “Themed nights and events play a huge role during freshers’ week. For venues, pubs and bars, it’s a way of standing out amongst other competitors in this crucial week.

“To ensure that venues make the most of their key student consumers, they must go the extra mile and provide an experience like no other.

“Platforms like Facebook are vital for communication to students and raising awareness and anticipation around events.”

That view was reinforced by Catherine Conaghan, on-trade controller at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK, distributor of the Sourz range of fruit-flavoured liqueurs.

“Fancy dress always goes down well with students, particularly if you go all out with a brilliant drinks menu and props,” she said.

“If you’re hosting a Hawaiian night, for example, make it fun with some tropical cocktails and decorations.”

Fancy dress always goes down well with students; go all out with a brilliant drinks menu and props.

A significant number of students (and young people generally) are choosing to go teetotal, with a report by the Office of National Statistics revealing that over a quarter of 16 to 24 year olds do not drink.

And this particular group can be catered for with “a wide range of soft drinks” to grow sales in outlets, said Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners.

Ed Jones, senior customer marketing manager at Vimto Out of Home, echoed that stance.

He said: “With an increased number of people choosing to quench their thirst alcohol-free, it’s crucial to integrate soft drinks into your regular offer to attract students into your bar or nightclub this freshers’ week.”

And it isn’t just ABV that’s in the spotlight, lower-calorie healthier options should also be stocked to offer choice, said Mark Bell, Red Bull UK’s strategy and planning manager.

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