Confcommercio, cultural consumption recovering but below pre-pandemic level

In a year of difficulties for families, expectations improve in the last months of 2022. Consumers are reduced, but the average expenditure of those who continue to spend on culture is increasing

Cultural consumption in general has recovered, but still below the pre-pandemic level, yet we return live to shows and the perception of the attractive role of cultural initiatives for the area is strengthened. These are the main results that emerge from the tenth report of the longitudinal Observatory on cultural consumption of Italians by Impresa Cultura Italia-Confcommercio, in collaboration with Swg, presented today in Milan at the Rovati Foundation and referring to the month of December 2022. In terms of consumption , 2022 was characterized above all by the effects generated by the significant increase in inflation, which kept the population on alert for most of the year and led families to redesign family spending. This process of recomposition of expenditure has generated significant changes in the framework of resource allocation priorities and the cultural consumption sector is one of those which has suffered the greatest reduction in expenditure.

The data

Specifically, as far as cultural consumption is concerned, 14% of the sample say they do not spend money, while, among those who do spend money, 39% say they have reduced their spending, compared to 17% who have increased it or by virtue of the rise in prices or for a specific choice to increase this type of consumption. Compared to last year, the projection of future consumption is down, with the exception of magazines, newspapers and concerts. However, the decision to reduce spending on cultural consumption is not uniform within the population, but affects more the social classes with lower economic and cultural capital who already had more modest spending levels. About 10% of those interviewed show a net increase in consumption compared to the past. The result is therefore an effect of generalized reduction in the number of consumers against an increase in average expenditure, both due to inflationary factors (for which more is spent to purchase the same good/service than in the past), and due to an effective increase in consumption of the portion of the population interested in this type of goods. For example, compared to 2021 there has been an increase in spending to attend live concerts (+28.1 euros), participate in cultural festivals (+9.7 euros) or visit exhibitions and museums (+8.7 euros).

Different trend

If the first six months of the year saw a progressive increase in the number of families finding it difficult to maintain their lifestyle and consumption, from November the trend changed with a significant increase in the share of families who finally found a new balance between income and expenditure and who, looking ahead, expect to have a positive family budget again in the coming months. The summary index of the trend of Italian cultural consumption confirms the recovery for 2022, however showing very different dynamics in relation to the different specific consumptions. For example, the use of programmes, films and series on TV from pay channels increased by 10% compared to 2019. The projection of future consumption compared to last year is down, with the exception of magazines/comics and newspapers (18%, an increase of +1%) and live concerts (stable figure at 14%). The result is that the general index still remains below the 2019 figure, while some of the specific indices have largely exceeded the 2019 figure. Net of the index values, the data on the perception of expenses incurred and those for the next months show an ambivalent trend, on the one hand the number of consumers decreases, on the other the average expenditure of those who continue to purchase cultural goods and services increases.

I use growing web platforms

The reduction in the number of consumers appears to be more pronounced for subscription services, with the exception of pay TV and cinema platforms which recorded an increase of +13%, and more contained for other services such as cinema and theater subscriptions, respectively – 3% and -1%. While the use of subscription and streaming web platforms is growing (+3% compared to December 2021), driven above all by the younger generations (under 34 for 44%), the share of readers remains stable compared to a year ago, both in paper (still largely prevalent with 53%) and digitally. The use of newspapers remains mostly linked to the use of free web editions (56%). As far as the theater is concerned, against the substantial stability of the data on live use (35%), the reduction in theatrical use via TV continues (-7% compared to December 2021). The same happens for opera, ballet and classical music concerts on television (-7% compared to the same month in 2021). Participation in live light music concerts resumes (+7%) and at the same time their use in streaming stabilizes. Also for cultural events, the decrease in remote use is confirmed (-6% in one year). Compared to 2021, the share of those who want to attend shows live is increasing, in particular for prose theater (+9%).

In the city

Finally, the perception of the role that cultural initiatives play within cities is strengthened, both as opportunities for socializing and as a commercial driving force and tourist attraction. The perception of the cultural offer of the cities is in fact generally positive, only two respondents out of five judge the winter cultural offer of their city negatively. However, it is affected by important territorial differences: 64% of the most satisfied reside in centers with more than 100,000 inhabitants and 48% in Northern Italy. More satisfied then are the subjects who generally have a higher expenditure on cultural consumption. Compared to the September survey, the positive perception of the role of cultural initiatives for the life and economy of cities is further accentuated and their importance as tourist attractions is confirmed. “The data that emerge from our observatory is characterized by many lights and some shadows, and can be summarized as follows: spending is increasing but consumers are decreasing. A social gap emerges, more is spent on culture if one has greater disposable income. This phenomenon requires corrective measures which must necessarily go in two directions: a major training action, especially for the younger generations, which helps to better understand the value of culture and economic support which, in our opinion, can be expressed in an instrument on which everyone, in words, agrees: the deductibility of cultural consumption» thus Carlo Fontana, President of Impresa Cultura Italia – Confcommercio, comments on the Observatory data processed by SWG.