Athough it represents a small part of the overall education market, adult education is an area that should not be overlooked. The importance of the sector can be seen by the amount of learning and retraining courses currently being offered on television.
The consumer end for this market can be divided into two categories: casual and professional learners. Language training may appeal more to casual learners, who may be looking to brush up on their skills before going on holiday, while professional learners may look for more job centred skills, such as accounting, typing or programming.
"Adult education software has remained healthy in a tough economic environment," says the sales director at Avanquest, Steve Powell. "We have seen growth in a number of retailers and it continues to be an important sector for us as a company. We do know that key categories in adult education are growing.
"Many of the products appeal to a mature market with more time, disposable income and the desire to learn new skills. The driving test market, for example, offers huge potential; it is a self-fulfilling market, delivering retailers a new set of customers every year, resulting in a high annual demand."
"The great thing about the adult education range is that it appeals to a really diverse demographic. From seventeen year old school leavers who are learning to drive, to senior citizens who are learning to speak Spanish for their holidays," says Focus Multimedia's PR and marketing manager Grant Hughes.
"Many people will also need to retrain and refresh their skills during this recession, and we have products that will help them do that with very little investment, except time."
RECESSION AND NEW SKILLS
"The recession has definitely had an impact on the adult education sector," agrees SJ Software's sales director James Jennings. "We have found many new customers looking to re-train or to complement their existing skills due to redundancies."
Koch Media's head of software sales, Joanne Kemp highlights the continued consumer interest in the sector, despite a decline in interest from retailers: "We have seen retailers reducing their ranges over the past years, but on the whole online sales stay stable."
The two potential customer groups are an important factor when considering sales. Language skills may see a boost in early summer, as people plan for holidays or students leave university and think about travelling.
On the other hand, it is when times are hard that professional learning may see an increase. Many people will be looking at training the necessary skills to either keep a current job or find a new one. These two factors combine to offer good sales all year round.
"Adult education is an evergreen category that delivers consistent sales all year round, with great margin potential from both premium and budget titles," continues Powell. "We do see peaks at key periods throughout, often when they are used as part of a targeted promotion such as 'New Year, New Skills' for example.
"Summer sees an increase in language titles as people try to brush up on their skills ahead of their summer holiday, with tutorial software such as Berlitz. A lot of these products also make perfect gifts, so naturally the busy period in the run up to Christmas sees a healthy increase in sales."
"Adult educational software has always been a stable software seller throughout the years," adds Kemp. "We work in partnership with Gotham New Media and with the expansion of their product range we expect a good increase in sales by bringing new products to market and opening up new areas of business for ourselves."
Despite its status as an evergreen market, adult educational software is something that must be actively sold to customers in order to gain the maximum margin possible.
"We have always seen greater sales of the product online and from people who have tried a demo product before, or who have been told about the product," confirms Kemp. "It's all about being able to present the benefits and highlight how easy the products are to use."
"Adult education software has performed well so far this year," says Jennings. "We have experienced steady growth on 2008 sales. We feel that the recovery market will represent a big opportunity in increasing sales of products like our Sage Accounts adult education packages."
"The best way to sell these products is by offering customers a wide range of titles and covering the key areas of education such as languages, office tutorials, music training, typing and driving," concludes Powell.
"Retailers also need to offer products for different levels of ability and at different price points depending on the needs of the customer. By stocking both entry level and comprehensive versions of products, retailers will appeal to a wider customer base and capture both impulse and considered purchases."