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Leisure spending fell sharply in the past six months

Consumer spending on leisure pursuits like eating out and clubbing has fallen sharply in the past six months, according to a survey.

Global corporate consultancy Zolfo Cooper said the contraction was likely to continue in 2011 as consumers continued to tighten their belts.

Zolfo said the biggest decline was in the 25-to-54 age bracket, with spending by the over-55s holding steady.

The only area to see a spending increase, albeit of just 1%, were gyms.

The firm's bi-annual Leisure Wallet Report polls 3,000 consumers and takes soundings from senior figures in the leisure industry.

Compared with six months ago, consumers have cut back on both the amount they spend and how often they go out, the latest survey suggests.

Sectors to see dramatic declines in consumer spending in the past six months included pubs and bars, which fell 42%, restaurants, down 41%, and nightclubs, down 45%.

Regional differences

Even among the key 18-24 year-olds, among whom clubbing is more widespread, 55% said they were going less often, with entry costs cited as a major deterrent.

Spending among the over-55s showed resilience, where the majority of people polled said their leisure spending had been unaffected.

Paul Hemming, leisure sector lead partner at Zolfo Cooper, said: "Most leisure sector operators anticipate significant challenges in 2011 with the clear risk that consumer demand will fall further as the combination of the VAT increase, cost inflation and the government austerity measures starts to bite.

"The impact is expected to be felt very differently across the regions, with the South East - and London in particular - offering good growth opportunities as interest in the capital builds in the lead up to the Olympics.

"Outside the South East the picture is less clear. As demand weakens, relevant, well-run operations will take market share and, if suitably funded, will have the opportunity to expand through acquisition."

BBC News

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