Trends Briefing: Affording Leisure

Is the play society under threat?

Thursday 29th June 2023


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The cost of living crisis is causing consumers to tighten their belts in every aspect of spending. That includes leisure, experiences and hospitality. This is having a dire impact on the market: the Hospitality Market Monitor, produced by AlixPartners and CGA, has found that 13,000 hospitality venues have closed permanently since the start of 2020. 4,500 of those have come in the last 12 months.

Tourism is suffering too. Inbound visits to the UK are down by around a million a year compared to before the pandemic, with outbound trips down by more than two million.

Part of our identity

Over the past few decades, leisure has become more and more central to our identities. We’re less likely to define ourselves by our jobs and more likely to place critical importance on what we do in our free time. But as Covid, and then inflation, have limited our ability to spend on leisure, is the Play Society coming to an end?

There are longer term challenges too that may prove even more stubborn than inflation. Our homes are getting more comfortable and entertaining, and the rise of the Fourth Place during the pandemic mean that they’re even better set up for socialising. The economy may remain stagnant for a while, suppressing consumers’ ability to spend for years to come. The post-Brexit labour market is making staff hard to find. And in a tougher economic climate, work is starting to become more central to peoples’ lives, potentially displacing leisure.

Good news

But there’s good news too. The leisure sector has seen off similar threats before: after the last downturn, consumer spending declined across the board, but the recovery was led by increased spending in leisure, especially eating out, which surged despite cutbacks being retained in other places. Data from the last few months suggest that quality is the key consideration for cash strapped consumers: people would rather go out less often and not compromise on the experience than go out more and do less.

Where next for leisure? Join us for our next trends briefing on 29th June as we delve into the spending data, explore current consumer attitudes and identify the key long term trends that will govern the future of the Play Society.

Register here