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SA students spend big on 'Brand Me'

South African students spendR32 billion a year, more than the average adult, and the biggest brand students spend their money on is "Brand Me".

These are just some of the top line findings of the fifth annual Student Spend Report conducted by marketing agency Student Village.

Conducted among 3249 respondents on campuses across the country, equally spread between first to final years and distributed among students in res, digs, renting or still at home, the survey tracks the evolution of students’ spending patterns and attitudes towards credit and brands since 2010.
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Cellphones are the most high value purchases made, with Samsung leading the pack at 49%, against Huawei at 15% and Apple at 13%. File picture: Oupa Mokoena

The researchers were also able to track what the effects were of the nationwide #FeesMustFall movement in 2015 and again last year.

As former student villager and well-known radio DJ Poppy Ntshongwana wryly noted, while MC-ing the presentation, when she’d been a student at Tukkies almost 13 years ago, a meal had consisted of a Chelsea bun for the day; these days food is dominating the debate.

The biggest change over the last seven years though has been the transition from brands as an aspirational tool to create identity through to Brand Me, the careful selection of a particular brand(s) to complement the individual’s identity. Brand Me, also articulated as "Slaying the Gram" - dominating social media site Instagram - is about experiences, the rarer the better.

Students are doing whatever it takes to make money working the "gig economy", doing everything from waiting tables, writing blogs to working as data capturers to earn the money they need to enjoy the life they want, whether it’s travelling or going to concerts.

They’re saving up to 17% of their monthly income, but not as a long term project - only to fund the next purchase, a short-term goal that can often be very expensive, the researchers found.

Male students are spending more than females, but female students are more concerned about their sexual health, spending more on contraception than their male counterparts. Black students, according to the research spend the most on takeaways and cosmetics, coloured students on clothes and jewellery, with white students spending most on groceries and alcohol. Cellphones are the most high value purchases made, with Samsung leading the pack at 49%, against Huawei at 15% and Apple at 13%.

The computer-tech sector amounts to a R7bn market per year on campuses.

Premium clothing is the next big buy with a total annual market value of R15bn, with one in three students shopping online. Computicket dominates this segment, underpinning the quest for experiences followed by the dramatic growth of Mr Price, attributed by the researchers for its edge online presence and affordable though on trend apparel. Most money though is still going to pay for rent or accommodation.

More and more students are taking out credit, in the form of retail accounts, to develop credit scores, with most having accounts at Edgars although these are mostly inherited accounts from families, followed by Truworths and then Mr Price. Twenty-nine percent of the sample had credit cards with Capitec leading the way, leapfrogging from fourth place in the last survey, beating Standard Bank into second place. “It’s not the sexiest of brands,” said the researchers, “but it’s the smartest, speaking directly to the needs of the students in terms of providing banking services with no administrative fees.

Top 10 things you need to know about student spending in 2017:

1. Students in 2017 are all about "BRAND ME"

2. Money buys students worthwhile experiences

3. Students still spend more than the average South African

4. Students are doing #WhatEverItTakes to make money

5. Students are saving to look good and make memories

6. Clothing and footwear up almost threefold

7. Students of different ethnicities and gender spend differently

8. Students' highest value purchase - smartphones

9. Online shopping is increasing - 1 in 3 students shop online

10. Students believe that debt can help buy them a credit rating

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