Freshers 2021: what are students buying right now?

Man browses a supermarket shelf

Freshers 2021 is a mere two months away. With the biggest event in the UK student calendar fast approaching, find out what Gen Z students will be picking up in this time period before university.

When do students start shopping for Freshers?

To understand the shopping habits of the Freshers of 2021, we need only look at their predecessors. The class of 2020 started buying Freshers items as early of April – but the real season began in July, with one in five future students making their first purchase during this month. 34% of students made their first purchase in August. By the time September rolled around, 80% of students had already started uni shopping.

Freshers 2021: the buy-right-now shopping list

Understandably, homewares are quite a typical pre-uni purchase. In the period between results day and the first day of uni, students often find out their accommodation for the year ahead – which means trips to buy bedding, kitchenware and decorations are firmly on the agenda. 57% buy homewares in advance compared to 21% who buy them on arrival. “We spent a full day in IKEA for all the essentials”, says Marco, a Marine Biology student in Edinburgh. “Because I had my own kitchen, I could buy my pots and pans, my knives, all in advance”.

A man holds a plant in IKEA

Tech and mobile is another big category that students pick up before starting uni – and with over half of all students getting a new laptop at some point during Freshers, the next two months are a crucial time period. 51% of students get their tech in advance compared to 25% who buy it once uni has started. There are two crowds to speak to here – those who are purchasing in advance, but also those who are waiting for that first loan drop to pick up a high-order-value item such as a new laptop or phone.

A photo of the Apple store

Students are also slightly more likely to pick up health and beauty purchases before they start university – with skincare and hair products topping their lists. But with 49% buying beforehand and 37% waiting until they arrive, there’s clearly an even spread of students getting sorted ahead of time, and those looking to wait.

Freshers 2021: saved for later

Of course, there are several shopping verticals that students will be saving for later – or buying throughout the next few months and beyond. For example, 63% of students buy clothes, shoes and accessories ahead of time – but 50% also buy them once they get there. University is a huge turning point in the lives of young people – as their identities form, their styles are likely to evolve, which explains the longer period of fashion shopping within Freshers.

A woman walks down a supermarket isle

Food and drink, for obvious reasons, was largely bought on arrival. But the number of students picking up food in advance is not insignificant – Maliha, a future medical student in Lancaster, says she plans to get some groceries before arriving: “things like snacks, and things that I know I’ll need.” Students also show a slight preference for buying entertainment upon arrival. With little experience of the local area, it’s likely that young people don’t want to commit to club nights and other social events before meeting their peers.

80% of existing students will take part in Freshers events for the year below this year. Get ready for the 2021 Double Freshers with a trip to our Freshers Hub. 

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