It’s a truth universally acknowledged – at least in the field of time use research – that consumers will prioritise out of home (OOH) leisure above all else. Trends and events can change the face of how we spend our time but this priority always drives behaviour.
The data below – harvested from decades of time-use research conducted by various academic institutions and most recently by us at Trajectory – demonstrates this truth. In 2016 UK consumers spent nearly a fifth (19%) of their time out and about. This is more than double the amount of time spent outside of home or work in the 1960s.
This is worth remembering given the trials that many OOH-relevant sectors have experienced in recent times. The long-term decline in drinking – driven by the youngest adults, more than half of whom don’t drink during a typical week – has seen pubs struggle, while the arrival of online shopping has seen footfall on the traditional high street wane.
More recently, there have been ominous signs from restaurants and cafes as the rate of growth of consumer spending has steadily declined since the vote to leave the EU, with many chains either issuing profit warnings or shutting venues (with House of Fraser’s ongoing travails among the most high profile). With healthier, tech-enabled consumers adopting a recessionary mindset, it is understandable that businesses would be worried.
Which is why it’s important to remind ourselves of a fundamental consumer priority – spending time out and about. This priority does not change, but the times and types of activity do. A report this week on the rise of gyms, squat parties and sweat crawls provides a timely reminder of how new OOH activities and opportunities are born.
Since 2015 the private health and fitness market has grown by 20% (to be worth £3.2bn) and 15% of adults now have a gym membership. This focus on health creates new opportunities in adjunct industries including tech, apparel and hospitality. The exclusivity of branded or curated events also evidences fitness’s role in the experience economy.
Where once it may have been a critical cultural signifier to have been seen in a particular bar or nightclub it is now – for some consumers – critical to be seen in the right athleisure gear at the right fitness class at the right boutique gym. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same…
Economic pressures will loom large over the next year. Consumers have been in a recessionary mindset in recent months, with more expecting their household finances to decline than improve. However, the evidence of the last downturn is that such impacts are short term reactions to immediate pressures, and no indication of a long-term shift in priorities when it comes to leisure.
The importance of out of home leisure to UK consumers should not be doubted. The question is: are you offering them the right experience?