Locked In, Lucked Out

Cally Skinner did not get lucky at Westfield’s discount day for students.

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If you ever were a Boy Scout you might remember the motto ‘and not to count the cost’. As a student, however, the cost of everything has to be counted again and again, as in: Do I really need this? Is it worth that much money? Or will I leave the shop and regret not buying it?

(Of course it’s a false economy if like me you start planning events which haven’t been arranged yet in order to excuse buying the well-coordinated outfit which just leaped down off the shelf at you.)

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The point is that students are strapped for cash and keen on discounts; meanwhile major retailers are keen to attract the Student Pound and willing to give discounts if this will pull in more quids overall. Result: special events like the Westfield ‘student lock-in’ last week, which led me to expect a 20 per cent discount across the entire shopping complex.

I got there for the advertised start time of 10am, and I have to say the response was underwhelming. Not the slightest trace of a queue for wristbands, even though the first 200 customers were promised a free goody bag. Then again, the only things in my goody bag were a bottle of water and an oyster card holder, and we are talking about students arriving at 10am (lecturers, please note, some of us are late for everything, even shopping).

Once inside, my mood changed for the better. There was a student-only section offering free facials, along with free candyfloss and popcorn and deckchairs and a DJ booth. Impressed with the Student Hang Out Area I had high hopes for the 78 shops and 16 food and drink outlets listed as participants in the online brochure. With another nine events and activities in store, surely I was onto a winner.

More like an also-ran. Most shops were in ‘sale’ mode, meaning no further discounts on top of the reduced prices offered to everyone. Others were offering special student discounts but only after you’d spent a specified amount, sometimes as much as £50.

Here’s an example of how it didn’t add up. Models Own were offering a 10 per cent discount on spends of £20 or more. But all Models Own products cost £5 each, which meant you would have to buy three more products to get a £2 discount on the one you really wanted, i.e. it’s cost you £13 more than it would have done anyway. Yes, you can tell yourself you’ve made a saving. But it’s all a bit cosmetic when you come to think about it!

I didn’t feel like I got any major discounts that actually saved me a lot of money. If there had been a single, expensive item which I had long been waiting for, then the discount would have been well and truly worth it. Other than that, if you had traveled up to try and get great savings on a range of not-so-expensive items, then I’m sure you would have been disappointed like me.

The set-up was good and the student area was appealing, nevertheless the most important items – special offers from the shops themselves – were less than impressive.
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