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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 12:05 GMT
UK leisure spending booms
Odeon West End Cinema
Odeon West End: Filmgoing is a favourite leisure pursuit
UK households have continued to spend the highest proportion of their income on leisure goods and services, official figures said.

Average leisure spending reached 70 a week per household during the 12 months to April 2001, compared with 64 on housing and 62 on food and drink, the Office for National Statistics said.

Main weekly outgoings
Leisure: 70.40
Housing: 63.90
Food/soft drink: 61.90
Motoring: 55.10
Household goods and services: 54.60
The British consumer's love affair with leisure activities, which began in earnest during the 1990s, has fuelled booming demand for holidays, audio and video equipment, DIY goods, and subscriber TV services.

Leisure goods and services now account for 18% of all household spending, up from 11% in 1974.

Sports, holidays and music

The UK leisure industry - a category which takes in businesses as diverse as tour operators and football clubs - is estimated to be worth about 1.7bn a week.

Some analysts have attributed high leisure spending to higher levels of disposable income and relatively long working hours, which, it is argued, can lead people to spend more heavily in the relatively little leisure time available to them.

Abseiling in Australia
Hobbies are becoming more popular

But the leisure sector boom has also been fuelled by the development of technology-driven products and items such as compact discs, DVDs, video games and cable TV.

Earlier this month, UK electrical retailers attributed a sharp rise in Christmas sales to a surge in demand for DVD players.

Downturn

The figures suggest that the UK leisure sector is built on solid foundations, despite a recent downturn due to the 11 September attacks and the deteriorating global economy.

The UK tourism sector, already reeling from the foot and mouth crisis, was hit particularly hard last year by a drop in overseas visitors in the wake of 11 September.

Hotels, guest houses and tourist attractions in the UK are estimated to have lost about 2bn in revenues last year.

And the UK entertainment media sector - including cable and satellite TV operators, film companies, and magazine publishers - was severely squeezed by savage cutbacks in corporate advertising budgets.

UK TV companies Carlton and Granada - joint owners of the struggling ITV Digital service - both reported hefty losses last year, partly blaming a slump in advertising revenues.

Spend, spend, spend

Of the leisure spend, UK households directed an average of 50.60 a week to services, with the remainder going on leisure goods, the ONS said.

Total spending per household averaged 390 a week, although there were wide variations according to income bracket and region.

Families in the top income bracket spent 850 a week compared with just 130 for those at the bottom of the scale.

By region, Londoners were the top spenders with an average weekly outlay of 440, while households in the North East of England spent the least, at 330 a week.

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The BBC's Rory Cellan Jones
"With this extra money our priorities have changed"
See also:

23 Jan 02 | Business
UK consumers wise up
14 Dec 01 | Business
UK shoppers shun economic gloom
30 Nov 00 | Business
Leisure boom for UK households
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