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The Co-op is offering students a 10% discount via the NHS extra card

This morning, The Co-operative Group revealed it would be offering students a 10% discount on their shopping via the NUS extra card.

As well as The Co-op Group, Anglia, Midcounties, Midlands, Scotmid and Southern co-ops are all taking part in the scheme – which is the first for a supermarket.

The announcement, perfectly timed as students get ready to join or head back to university, is the latest in a series of moves this year by The Co-op to appeal to younger shoppers.

In January, The Co-op Group made the Carers Trust, which support carers aged 14-25, its charity of the year. The society is aiming to raise £5m for the cause this year.

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The Co-operative Group has launched an experiential marketing and social media campaign this summer in a bid to attract younger shoppers.

In June, it reached out to the younger generation via a social media campaign called ‘Tweet 4 a Table’, with pop-up restaurants serving Co-op own-label meals in eight cities.

And then in July it appointed 15 members to a new Young Members’ Board who will contribute ideas straight to the society’s board of directors. It was created, The Co-op said, because five of the original Rochdale Pioneers who formed the society in 1844 were under 26.

The Co-op recognises it needs to reach out to the young. In May this year, new group CEO Euan Sutherland revealed to members at its agm that its own poll had found just 12% of 16-24 year olds thought The Co-op was the most trusted brand versus 43% of over 55s.

And Steve Murrells told The Grocer last month that attracting younger shoppers was a key point of its True North food strategy.

The problem the society has in doing this is that The Co-op meant something to the older generation. It used to be the UK’s biggest supermarket and people still get misty-eyed talking about the famous ‘divi’ – the dividend stamp scheme launched in the 1960s. In fact, many people can still reel off their old divi number and recall getting told off by their parents for forgetting to collect their stamps.

But for the younger generation, The Co-op is just another retailer.

Inspiring young people

The Co-op’s attempt to get down with the kids is not new. In 2010, 53,000 of its customers asked it to focus on ‘inspiring young people’, and as part of its Ethical Plan it has set a target to inspire one million young people by 2014.

However, today’s announcement could prove to be the biggest step forward because it aids young people where they most need help – with their finances. Student fees are at an all-time high, as is youth unemployment, so this could really make the society, which is by no means known for its value for money, stand out in a very crowded grocery sector.

It seems to be having the desired effect on Twitter already, with tweets including “this is the best news ever!!!”, “this is actually very good. Might have to change supermarkets”, and the most telling – “looks like it includes booze as well”.

The NUS says students most wanted a supermarket deal on their NUS card, and they’ve got their wish. The Co-op’s job now is to make sure those students keep coming back.

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