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Surprising facts about Gen Z's back-to-campus spending habits

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    £22bn ($26.88bn USD). That’s the spending power of the Gen Z student population in the US. For the UK student population, it's £4.17bn ($5bn USD).

    But what exactly are students splashing their cash on in the new academic year? 

    To find out, we recently did a Back to Campus 2022 survey, which received 1870 responses from the UK and 1097 responses from the US. The results were enlightening and in some cases surprising! Here’s what we found most intriguing - and the lessons learnt along the way.

    1. First-years are big spenders 

    First-years plan to spend more overall than second, third and fourth-year students (who we call ‘members’). In the UK, it’s 18% more. In the US, it’s 30% more

    Their intent to buy is also higher than members across several different categories, including: 

    • Food and drink (particularly for UK students)
    • School supplies (across the board)
    • Tech and electronic gadgets (across the board)
    • Kitchen and homeware (particularly for UK students)

    For example, in the UK, 35% of members will buy kitchen and bedroom items. This jumps to 52% for freshers. Meanwhile, 46% of US freshmen will buy electronic gadgets compared to 32% of returning student members.

    Insight: If you operate in one of the categories above, targeting first-years is a smart move. 

    2. 40% of students won’t buy food and drink from supermarkets  

    62% of UK and 63% of US students will buy food and drink from supermarkets. Does this mean that 40% of the student population is foraging for their meals? Not quite…

    One in three students will be living at home. Potentially eliminating the need to shop for groceries, this may account for much of the missing 40% who aren’t shopping at stores.

    19% of US college and university students will be living on-campus using pre-paid meal plans. Perhaps they also make up a portion of the 40%.

    What’s more, 26% of US students plan to use a food delivery or take-out service, while 10% of UK and 7% of US students will subscribe to a recipe box service. 

    Insight: Partnerships with take-out and delivery services, rewards for loyalty and messaging around pool shopping will appeal.

    3. Students prioritise price and quality 

    UK and US students cited price and quality as the most important buying factors across all categories. 

    Does this mean Gen Z will always go for the cheapest? Not necessarily. 

    One explanation: Gen Zs are money savvy. They recognise how paying more for their items can save them money in the long term because they’re more durable and long-lasting.

    Gen Zs also care about the environment. Perhaps they want to make sure the products they buy are made from high-quality ingredients and materials because they tend to be more ethically sourced than cheaper alternatives.

    However, they also prioritise budgeting - it’s striking the balance that is key for Gen Z. 

    Insight: Brands competing for Gen Z’s attention would do well to prioritise price and quality in the creation of their products.

    4. Extras

    Here’s what else caught our eye: 

    • In-person clothes shopping experiences are back in style: only 23% of UK and 24% of US students want to buy clothes online.
    • UK students are more likely to purchase a gym subscription: 62% of UK vs. 41% of US students will sign up for a gym.
    • First-years are spending less on subscriptions: 35% of UK freshers will sign up for a subscription service compared to 37% of members. In the US, it’s 33% of US freshmen vs. 41% of members.

    To learn more about what these stats mean for brands, check out our Back to Campus 2022 Report >>>


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