Retailers in university cities are looking to attract new students during Freshers’ Week with a combination of availability, fresh food, home products and cutting-edge technology.

Freshers’ Week began for most universities on Monday and will continue throughout September across the country.

Keith Whetnall-Harling, manager of Spar Bowerham, in a student neighbourhood in Lancaster, wanted to attract students from the start with the latest alcohol brands and household essentials.

He said: “Our key focus is on big stacks. The first thing that students see when they come through the door is a big stack of toilet roll and Surf.”

Keith is also giving out samples to encourage repeat custom. “We want to keep things fresh. That means changing the displays throughout the week,” he added.

Paul Stone, owner of seven Spar stores in Greater Manchester, is focusing on his product range at his Manchester city centre stores.

He said: “I think because there are a lot of foreign students in Manchester, if we solve a few of their problems, perhaps providing them with an international charger or home items, then we can get a bit of loyalty.

“We have a lot of Chinese students so we have also beefed up our range of Chinese food.”

Paul has installed self-checkouts in his Princess Street store which “will help students to come in and get what they need quickly”.

Richard Inglis, from Parkview Retail in Southampton, is focusing on availability at his Co-op stores. He said: “We have to make sure stock levels are high. We bring in lots of alcohol and home items and bring in fresh stock. If someone comes in that first week and you haven’t got milk or bread then they are not going to come back.”

He added: “There is a big misconception that students want only Pot Noodle and lager. They don’t. They want fresh fruit and veg; they like to cook and are quite adventurous.”

Repeat business

”We have 5,000 leaflets to give out over Freshers’ Week to build loyalty. We’ve introduced an American range, free-from and protein products.”

Pete Ewing, manager, Spar North Hill, Plymouth

“We are reviewing our range of alcohol at the moment to include more craft beer. Students tend to buy the same products as our other customers, but if they start buying anything different then I’ll react to it.”

Kay Patel, six Best One stores, East London