LONDON: Brand owners in the UK reduced their spend on market research by almost 5% last year, as the recession led many marketers to rein in their activity in this area.

According to the latest annual survey by the MRS, the trade body, revenues in the country fell by 4.7% to £2.08bn ($3.0bn; €2.5bn) in 2009, compared with the figure of £2.16bn registered in 2008.

Within this, sales relating to domestic projects fell by 3% last year, measured against the expansion of 3.8% recorded over the previous 12 months.

Assignments with an international focus posted an even more substantial slide of 8.3%, having generated an uptick of 12.5% in 2008.

The maturity of the UK market research industry, which is the second largest in the world, combined with cost-cutting among brand owners in the downturn to produce this negative result.

Indeed, despite the slowdown witnessed in 2009, David Barr, director general of the MRS, stated that trading conditions had proved relatively robust, adding that total returns were larger than those delivered over the course of 2007.

"The market research sector was certainly not immune to the recession, but the overall results for the year mask significantly different outcomes for individual companies and segments," he said.

"Significantly, many research organisations are reporting a strong first quarter 2010. The resilience of the sector as a whole remains much in evidence." 

Data sourced from MRS; additional content by Warc staff