Retailers are moving fast to expand their operations near college campuses and tap into a younger consumer base. Target has five small stores near colleges, plans at least eight more next year, and more beyond that, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Amazon has also expanded its number of staffed on-campus pick-up locations and/or co-branded bookstore to a dozen locations nationwide.
Wal-Mart and Best Buy have also experimented with college-based or college-adjacent operations.
College campuses have emerged as important retail markets. Target, Amazon and Wal-Mart are experimenting with stores on campuses and Barnes & Noble Education is expanding its offerings. The book retailer spun off its lucrative education-based effort last year, and has since added categories like beauty into its stores.
But its college presence has been challenged by these other retailers, which have designed small scale, convenient stores on or near campuses, offering an assortment of food, apartment, dorm and other goods that appeal to young people.
The effort is not just a way to capture a niche market, but also to introduce brands to young consumers that are still developing their own preferences. Amazon, in particular is bringing in new, sticky Prime customers through its specially-priced student rates. The Star-Tribune notes that many students are well aware of their choices, and describes college-based retail as an "emerging battleground."
One student at the University of Minnesota, junior Paige Hill, told the Star-Tribune she stops in a nearby Target several times a week because of its convenience. But she keeps her options open, she says, and usually price-checks on Amazon, where she has a student Prime membership.