UK’s National Portrait Gallery revises visitor figures after noting discrepancies

Exterior of the National Portrait Gallery showing the East Wing left of entrance portico. © National Portrait Gallery, London

LONDON – The National Portrait Gallery has revised its reported visitor figures for the period April 24, 2017 to August 3, 2018, after an investigation revealed that the Gallery’s footfall counting system, operated by Ipsos Retail Performance, was significantly undercounting visitors through the main entrance.

The revised figures, calculated by Ipsos Retail Performance, show that the Gallery received 1,691,547 visitors for the financial year 2017/8 not 1,072,377 as previously reported to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The adjusted figures for the calendar year show the Gallery attracted 1,703,411 visitors in 2017 rather than 1,271,930 as previously reported.

The Gallery raised concerns with Ipsos Retail Performance about the accuracy of the footfall counting system in July 2018, having observed discrepancies between the visitor figures recorded at the main entrance and the BP Portrait Award 2018 exhibition. Further manual counts undertaken by the Gallery indicated that the system was significantly undercounting visitors through the main entrance.

A subsequent internal investigation by Ipsos Retail Performance revealed a fault with the counting system over the main entrance dating back to April 2017. The system was repaired, but failed an accuracy audit in July 2017, comparing system and manually observed counts. However, the results of the audit were incorrectly entered manually as a “pass” rather than a “fail” by Ipsos Retail Performance so no further action was taken by them. The Gallery had raised concerns with Ipsos Retail Performance in 2017 due to some anomalies in the reports received, but was assured at the time that the system was working.

The counting system over the main entrance has now been replaced and corrective actions are being taken by Ipsos Retail Performance to safeguard against a repetition of events.

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