Consumers choose to spend their cash on cultural attractions when the going gets tough according to West Midlands Cultural Observatory

They said it would happen and according to research published this week by the West Midlands Cultural Observatory it is happening: the recession has caused consumers to be more selective about what cultural products and services they spend their cash on.

Evidence cited in the latest recession paper suggests that over the Spring and Summer months, people have been saving money on accommodation, but continuing to spend on visits to cultural attractions such as museums, historic houses and visitor attractions when visiting in the region.

According to data from the UK Tourism Survey for example, the decrease in ‘average length of stay’ in the West Midlands was the most marked of any region (although most regions did see a reduction), suggesting that the trend for people to save money on accommodation is happening nationally, but may be affecting the West Midlands accommodation sector disproportionately.

Meanwhile, evidence presented in the snapshot suggests many local cultural venues and attractions have seen an increase in footfall and sales compared to the previous year over the summer months. Respondents of the latest Cultural Research & Intelligence Group (CRAIG) recession survey reported visitor volume and revenue to have increased by an average of 6% during July-September 2009. This follows an initial dip in performance compared to the previous year between October 2008 and March 2009.

Similarly, evidence cited in the snapshot suggests that nationally, consumers are choosing to save money on cultural retail products. Household expenditure on cultural products decreased at a rate that exceeded the average, suggesting ongoing issues for commercial product manufacturers (despite a more positive outlook for manufacturers generally).

The potential for cultural customers to become ‘choosier’ during the recession was reported in the first cultural sector recession snapshot (covering the October-December 2008 quarter) based on a combination of formal and anecdotal evidence. Since that time, three further snapshots have been produced by the West Midlands Cultural Observatory, all of which collate evidence about the impact of the recession on the West Midlands cultural sector. With 12 months worth of data and intelligence now in the bag, this exercise is really beginning to pay dividends: a detailed and complex narrative has begun to emerge about the experience of local cultural organisations over the past year. Part of this experience is demonstrated by the line graph below, which shows how the average (median) change in levels of revenue and visitors (compared to the previous year’s figures) has improved over time for the cultural venues that have responded to the CRAIG recession survey:

Click here to download the latest economic snapshot for the cultural sector.

If you would like to receive the economic snapshot for the cultural sector directly please do get in touch with Lauren (lauren.amery@artscouncil.org.uk / 0121 631 5705). Also, please feel free to comment on this research in the comment box below.

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