A turbulent leisure market will create winners and losers during 2011, as consumers continue to rein in spending, according to a new study. Corporate advisory firm Zolfo Cooper’s bi-annual Leisure Wallet report, which combines analysis of the spending habits of more than 3,000 consumers carried out in November, found significant falls in leisure spend across virtually all sectors. The only sector to witness a net increase in spend, albeit 1%, was gyms. Elsewhere the declines are in many cases steep, with 42% of drinkers spending less in pubs and bars than six months ago. Within the restaurant sector 41% of diners are spending less than before, as are 45% of clubbers. The frequency with which people visit leisure venues is also in sharp decline with 43% eating outside the home less often, and 48% drinking outside the home less often. Almost two-thirds of clubbers, 61%, are going less often than they were just six months ago, confirming the late night sector’s travails highlighted by industry leader Luminar’s recent financial results. Even among the key 18-24 year-olds, among whom clubbing is more widespread, some 55% say they are clubbing less often, with entry costs cited as a major deterrent. Around a quarter (24%) of those aged 18 to 24 years old said they had increased their in-home leisure spend in the past six months, while the over 55s was the only age range where the amount of people saying their out of home leisure spend hadn’t been affected outstripped those that said it had. Paul Hemming, leisure sector lead partner at Zolfo Cooper, said: “Most leisure sector operators anticipate significant challenges in 2011 with the clear risk that consumer demand will fall further as the combination of the VAT increase, cost inflation and the government austerity measures starts to bite. “The impact is expected to be felt very differently across the regions, with the South East - and London in particular - offering good growth opportunities as interest in the capital builds in the lead up to the Olympics. We therefore expect operators with a strong London or South East presence to be key targets for M&A activity in 2011. “Outside the South East the picture is less clear. As demand weakens, relevant, well run operations will take market share and, if suitably funded, will have the opportunity to expand through acquisition.” The report suggests excellent customer service and a strong management team will be the key attributes that separate the winners and losers in 2011. Hemming added: “For many, leisure remains a high-risk sector, but plenty will be keen to identify the niche growth opportunities and we therefore expect private equity and international investors to be active bidders in all situations in 2011. “The restaurant market with its range of new concepts and roll-out brands will, in our view, be the most active market in 2011, with deal potential across the spectrum from early-stage investing through to stock market listings.”