Good News and Bad for UK Market Research Industry

23 July 2003

Four core sectors of Britain’s market research industry enjoyed ‘significant’ year-on-year revenue growth in 2002, according to the British Market Research Association’s annual survey. An equally significant decline was experienced by another four sectors.

Among the bulls were household products (+43%); soft drinks (+42%); non-OTC pharmaceuticals (+16.1%); and food (+10%). The telecoms sector also rose by 43% but this must be viewed against a fall of a 30% in 2001.

Leading the research bears were broadcast media (-18%); health and beauty products (-8%); vehicles (-7%) and the financial services sector (-4%).

Exceeding industry growth as a whole were the government and public service sectors with respective growth of 8% and 9%; while social surveys for central and local government were particularly robust.

Commented BMRA chairman Peter Jackling: “Growth in client spend over all sectors was an average of 2.6% for the year. The above average rise in the core sectors of food, non-alcoholic drinks, household products and non-OTC pharmaceuticals is possibly a reflection of these sectors’ resilience in a period of economic uncertainty.

Jackling also pointed out that figures concerning data collection methods are difficult to interpret or depend upon: “Of the total revenue reported by BMRA members … only two-thirds was accounted for in breakdowns by data collection method. This makes it difficult to draw reliable conclusions from this part of the analysis. It may suggest, however, that there was some recovery in revenues from face-to-face interviewing, but a decline in spend on consumer panels.”

Another complicating factor is the so-called Sarbanes-Oxley legislation (Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act) passed in the United States last year. According to the BMRA, comparisons with previous years are now difficult, the act’s provisions making it impossible for WPP Group research companies to contribute data to the report. To enable rudimentary comparison, WPP data for 1999-2001 has been excluded from the 2002 report.

Summarized Jackling: “The sector remains stable … [but] we need to be cautious with our forecasting in an economic climate such as this, particularly as prospects remain tight... however… we expect to benefit from an upturn in turnover perhaps later this year or in 2004.”

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; additional content by WARC staff