In-store Wi-Fi and seating among plans to get more teens into city centre shops

St. Angela’s students Isabel Janssen Cahill and Laura Murpy with their teacher Muireann Curtin, project management who took part in Engaging with our youth- the retail experience in Cork City promoted by the Cork Business Association. Included are Lawrence Owens, chief executive and Philip Gillivan, President at their premises on the South Mall, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Retailers in Cork are planning a series of workshops with teenagers to find out how they can improve the retail offering to a vast untapped teenage market.

It follows the release of new research by students at St Angela’s College, facilitated by the Cork Business Association (CBA) and the city council, which highlights some of the perceived barriers which teenagers say discourage them from shopping in the city centre.

It also includes suggestions, they say, would encourage them to shop more in the city, including:

  • Better social media connections with their demographic
  • Better public transport and signage
  • In-store WiFi to help them share their shopping experience
  • A rental locker system to allow them drop-off heavy school bags before shopping
  • Targeted student deals, discounts and offers
  • And more city centre and in-store seating

CBA president, Philip Gillivan, said they are now planning to host workshops at the start of the next academic year between students and retailers.

“The students will be given an opportunity to engage directly with the CBA’s retail committee in a dual-learning setting. We are of the firm belief that we can learn just as much from this demographic as they can from us,” he said.

Students want to have their voice heard - they want to be part of the conversation and they feel they can bring solutions to the problems. They are tomorrow’s shoppers and consumers - let’s keep the conversation going.

The CBA linked up with the city council and St Angela’s College last year. With teacher Muireann Curtin they devised a year-long business module for the Transition Year students. The CBA engaged Julia Campa, from Sao Paulo, who worked on similar projects in Brazil, to facilitate the project.

The students examined the products available in Cork, how the youth market consume these products, how they rate the overall retail experience. They surveyed up to 400 students, ranging in age from 13 to 18. The CBA said while the results are not scientific, they do give a valuable insight into the trends.

The survey found that 82% of students spend an average of up to €50 a month online; 64% spend up to €50 over the counter per month, while 27% spend between €100 and €150 over the counter per month. The spend includes food and drink.

It found that students generally spend their money with a retailer with whom they have an online relationship, and feel more comfortable entering a store they feel they know.

Of the 24 retailers surveyed, only half offered online purchasing, and many offered discounts to third level students only.

The survey also showed the students want to support environmentally responsible retailers who will, for example, accept returned packing or who sell coffee in reusable cups.

Mr Gillivan said the CBA hopes to expand the academic module to more schools next year.

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