Fresher finances “resilient”, says new Ucas report

Nike, Apple and Adidas are the top three brands for students, says the first part of the 2021 Student Lifestyle Report

Despite the turmoil and financial hardship caused by Covid, the spending power of students has remained resilient, according to a survey that will come as welcome news to retailers.

Now in its tenth year, the Student Lifestyle Report, published by UCAS Media asked 12,000 students 100 questions about their spending habits.

The first chapter of the 2021 report – entitled ‘Brand and Spend’ – shows that the spending power of first years in 2020 exceeded that of their predecessors.

“I’m delighted to see this incredibly high level of consumer confidence from the new 2020 cohort, which would be encouraging at any time, let alone in the context of Covid and its continued impact on our economy and society,” said Rebecca Hopwood, head of sales at Ucas.

“Students are confidently finding their way as consumers, whether it be searching through the aisles or scrolling online. The spending power of this group remains resilient and robust despite the stresses of the results process and the significant reduction in the availability of part-time jobs, and then having to isolate in halls of residence.

“That students have managed to keep ploughing their pounds into the economy is a real boost and a sure sign that things can improve if our fresher’s finances are anything to go by.”

The Ucas findings

  • The average student in 2020 spent £2,110 preparing to start their first year at university (up £33 on spending by the 2019 intake).
  • Average spend during fresher’s week was £406, the highest proportion of which was on books or study materials.
  • £229 was typically spent in a ‘normal’ week, mostly on groceries.
  • Laptops were the most popular purchase for first years, with 45% buying a new one for the start of term. The most popular laptop was the Apple Macbook.
  • 59% of male and female UK based students spent their money on Black Friday.
  • UK students are socially and environmentally conscious consumers – 72% will pay a higher price for sustainable goods or services, and 92% buy products that align with their values. The most common ethical reasons for not buying a certain brand were animal testing and poor treatment of staff. Primark was cited as the brand most students ‘broke up with’ over the last year.
  • Apple, Nike and Adidas were the three most popular brands amongst both male and female students.

The top 20 brands according to UK students starting university in 2020 are:

  1. Nike
  2. Apple
  3. Adidas
  4. Amazon
  5. ASOS
  6. Primark
  7. Zara
  8. H&M
  9. PRETTYLITTLETHING
  10. Topshop
  11. Urban Outfitters
  12. Samsung
  13. New Look
  14. Tesco
  15. Sony
  16. Boohoo
  17. Vans
  18. Boots
  19. HP
  20. JD

Forthcoming chapters of Ucas’s Student Lifestyle Report, to be released throughout March and April, will look at student choices around technology and gaming, social media, entertainment and food and travel.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant will be speaking at Talking Higher Ed, UB’s virtual event, on Wed 24 March. Register for free now.


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