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Bright College Years, with Purchases Rife

A new study suggests that the young adult market has more niches than product marketers give it credit for, and one of those niches is covered in ivy. The “360 Youth/Harris Interactive College Explorer Study” reports that America’s 15.6 million college students spend $200 billion annually. Even if college-age consumers are not brand-loyal for life, they’re still a powerful force.

Polling 2,930 students 18-30 years old, as well as 700 18-24 year-olds not attending college, the study uncovered that most students’ discretionary income, which averages $287 per month, goes to beverages and snacks. Entertainment and leisure activities also consumed many of these dollars; video game purchases alone total almost $2.3 billion.

Real estate developers shouldn’t fret that students’ money are bypassing bricks and mortar. Even though 93% of college students are wired to the web, the report also found that only 38% of college students purchase technology products online. That 80% of students have personal use of a car lessens their reliance on the Web.

Says Sharon Bosche, vice president of sampling and promotions of 360 Youth, an Alloy, Inc. company, “while they’re more technically savvy than the average consumer, unless there’s a reason - if it’s cheaper, or if there’s a special deal - I don’t think there’s any compelling reason for a college student to purchase online.”

Marketers usually group college students in the 18-24 category, and so “they tend to be underrepresented in studies to understand market dynamics,” Bosche notes. She advises that manufacturers as well as real estate developers should find out if their surveys are modeled according to an undifferentiated population, in order to better hone their respective products.

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