Nightclub visits fall but bars stay steady, survey reveals

nightclub queueBritons are going out clubbing less often, according to a new survey which found visits to nightclubs falling while bars, pubs and restaurants remained steady.

A national survey of 2,000 UK consumers by leading advisory and restructuring group Zolfo Cooper shows that while visits to pubs, bars and restaurants remained broadly static in 2013, visits to clubs fell to their lowest level since the research began.

In the sixth edition of the study, which examines consumer spending habits in the leisure sector, respondents indicated they were visiting nightclubs on average 1.7 times per month – down from 2.5 times in 2012 – equating to 20 visits per year.

Among the key age group of people aged 18 to 34, visits fell from 2.7 times per month to 1.7 times, the first time that the number of visits has dipped below two per month for this category.

Paul Hemming, partner and head of corporate finance at Zolfo, said: “Whilst young people will always want to go dancing, our research continues to suggest that the younger generation are rejecting the formal ‘big box’ nightclub experience.

“If you only have the funds to go clubbing once or at most twice a month then you will only go to the ‘best’ venues, which are typically run by specialist operators catering to their local market.

“The generation that grew up before the Licensing Act 2003, which extended pub opening hours, are now in, or approaching, their 30s, where clubbing is a lesser priority.

“Nightclubs have to offer a better experience to attract the younger generation who have grown up dancing in a good late-night bar.

“The good nightclub operators continue to deliver strong results, but running multiple nightclub venues successfully is becoming the pursuit of the chosen few, who are genuine experts.”

Despite the tough market, Paul pointed to this month’s stock market flotation of Eclectic Bar Group – operator of late-night concepts Lola Lo and Sakura – as evidence there is still investor interest in this market.

Women were even less likely to visit traditional clubs than men, visiting just 1.5 times per month – again, a new low. Average spend at nightclubs was broadly static at £26.65 per night out versus £26.70 in 2012.

The trend for consumers to visit clubs later was consistent with 2012: 28% of clubbers do not enter a venue before midnight, 30% of visitors went to clubs at 11pm while 29% were in at 10pm or earlier.

Eating out at restaurants showed the strongest results in the report, with spend per visit increasing by 8%, compared to 2.5% in pubs and bars (December 2011 to October 2013).

Men have been responsible for the highest increases in spending – 13% more on eating out, compared to women who were actually spending marginally less over the same period.

“While there is no one stand-out indicator to suggest a material surge in consumer confidence, what comes through clearly from the body of the research is a general uptick across the board,” Hemming added.

“This is now the sixth study and it is clear to us that consumers are feeling better about things, which fits with what we are seeing elsewhere, be it economic growth forecasts, the recovery of the jobs market or construction and the service industries data.”

When questioned on their future outlook, most respondents said they had confidence in the UK economy growing over the next 12 months, with almost 30% saying that they expected to see growth, and a further 41% believing it would remain at a similar level to now.

The survey also revealed that 64% of respondents own a smartphone, rising to 84% among people aged 18 to 34. Among people with smartphones, 46% have used it to research a venue or event and 27% have booked a venue or tickets using their phone.

It found that 11% of all respondents had used contactless payment in a bar, restaurant or other leisure activity in the last 12 months, while 32% said they would use contactless payment if they had the opportunity to do so in the next 12 months. However, 58% said they would choose not to.

One third of both men and women respondents said that they sought out pubs and bars that were closer to home or involved less travelling. This preference for venues closer to home has seen a steady increase since the research began in March 2010.

Only 12% “try to go to pubs and bars” with happy hours or price promotions. In addition, over half of respondents indicated they used discount vouchers when eating out in restaurants, with 17% saying they used them “most/all of the time”.

There has been a reduction in the number of consumers “drinking before leaving home”, down to 15% from 20% two years ago.

The Zolfo Cooper Leisure Wallet was carried out by Opinium Research in October 2013, among 2,024 UK adults aged 18 and over, with a national representation. Leisure Wallet research has been carried out six times since it began in March 2010.

A full analysis is provided on Zolfo Cooper’s dedicated Leisure Wallet report website at

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