Cost of living crisis sees student spend swell

Research from UNiDAYS shows 19% increase in spend as costs continue to rise

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


For all the uncertainty of the past few years, one certainty remains; September is back-to-school season. As university students return to their respective schools, new research from UNiDAYS shows that the cost of living crisis will see them have to splurge on supplies at a larger rate than ever before.

The ‘Back to Campus Report’ from UNiDAYS explores how students are set to spend ahead of their scholarly return. This year, students are set to spend a whopping £3.26 billion in total ahead of arriving at University in autumn 2022, as a result of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. 

With shopping habits shifting in light of rising prices, brands must seize the opportunity to drive affinity with Gen Z

Alex Gallagher, Chief Strategy Officer at UNiDAYS

The forecast marks a clear increase in expenditure when compared to the total from 2021 which stood at £2.7bn, down from £2.8bn in 2020. Students are intending to spend 19% more this year than in 2021, which is said to be a sign that pre-university bills are rising rapidly. 

On average, each student will spend approximately £1,027 ahead of the new year. A figure which is even higher among freshers will be 18% higher than returning students, with those going into their first year of university set to spend £1,215 on average. For these first time Uni students, bills mount up due to spend on living essentials. Freshers are predicted to spend 42% more on computers and hardware and 60% more on kitchen and bedroom items compared to returning students. 

Student supplies now go beyond books, pens and pencils as the university experience is more all-encompassing. Such is the reason that the largest number of students (65%) plan to spend money on groceries and household goods. Yet, technology is also a huge cost with £1.04billion forecast to be spent by 38% of students on computers and hardware.

Although spend on fashion and smaller school supplies is less, the research found that for Gen Z students ASOS, Primark, Zara, Nike and New Look were the most popular clothing retailers. Students are also continuing to spend on subscription services and those around gym/health , music and home entertainment were the most popular. 

“Amidst the cost-of-living crisis, Gen Z students are facing significantly increased costs to prepare for the year of study ahead. With shopping habits shifting in light of rising prices, brands must seize the opportunity to drive affinity with Gen Z. To do this it’s crucial that brands adjust their offering – adopting a strong pricing strategy which will help them to better resonate with the Gen Z audience priorities and values during the current economic climate,” explained Alex Gallagher, Chief Strategy Officer at UNiDAYS.

Students are being impacted heavily by the cost of living crisis but remain a crucial audience with spending power and a strong need for supplies. While they are impacted hard by the cost of living crisis, brands should consider price and quality as the two top factors essential in the purchase consideration journey. 

Discounts and promotions from brands can act as key influencing factors for bargain-hunting students and brands that can be seen to help out students in the cost of living crunch are the ones that will gain favour with Gen Z long term.

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