Over the past several years I’ve had to do quite a few market studies for stores on college campuses. What makes a good college store location?
Parking: A large parking lot isn’t necessary but try to get at least 20 or more free spaces. Even if you had a large lot commuters will hog the spaces. Most of the customers will be walking, riding a bike, or taking a bus. If you need to have parking garage, make sure customers can have free parking with a validated purchase.
Population: Its best to have about 30,000 or more people living within one mile. Less than 20,000 you are probably wasting your time.
No Vehicle Access: Ideally if 35% or more of the population within one mile does not have a car, sales volumes tend to be higher. As this figure drops it means more people can get in their cars and shop elsewhere.
Male/Female Ratio: The higher the percent of females the better. We like to see 55% or better. College age women are better grocery shoppers than men.
Households/Dorm Ratio: We want to see a large percentage of people living in their own apartment rather than a dorm. Dorm students have a meal plan and don’t make good grocery consumers. We like to see more than 70% of the population within one mile living in their own apartment.
Percent Asian: The higher the percent Asian the better. Why? Asian students tend not to go home for spring, summer, and winter breaks. The higher the percent Asian the less sales will drop when school is not in session. Ten percent or higher is preferred.
Distance to the Nearest Big Box Store: Its best if the nearest Supercenter is more than 3 miles away. If there are other supermarkets within three miles thats fine. However its best if there are no major competitors within one mile.
Extra Credit: Having a successful football team with lots of tailgating fans. An in-store coffee shop for students to relax. Lots of special events that need catering. A pharmacy in close proximity. Online shopping and home delivery options. Keep up with the latest technology in payment options and phone apps. Participate in accepting prepaid debit/student ID cards.
There are a lot of under-served college campuses in the USA. Unless you break down the demographics for a particular site its hard to tell. Every college wants a nice grocery store on campus. But not all schools have the ideal mix of demographics and site characteristics to support one. Over the past few years there has been a huge building boom in campus housing. The housing built 50-60 years ago is crumbling and not suitable for modern day students.