It’s unlikely to be a very merry Christmas in corporate offices this year. The fallout of the financial crisis and the economic downturn is prompting companies to cut back on holiday parties to their lowest level in 20 years, according to New York-based executive search firm Battalia Winston Amprop. Just 81% of the 108 companies surveyed are planning holiday parties, down from the previous low of 83% in the holiday season following Sept. 11. “It’s general gloom and doom,” says Battalia Winston partner Jo Bennett. “You just don’t feel like partying when you know a lot of your friends and neighbors are out of work.”
The survey found that 60% of companies won’t be giving holiday gifts to employees this year. Thirty-seven percent say their holiday party plans have been affected, almost double the number from last year. Those who are having parties are even cutting back on one thing that could make employees feel better: Booze. Just 71% of companies say they’re planning to serve alcohol this year, down from a survey high of 90% in 2000.
While event planners are quick to point out that the majority of companies are still holding soirees, some areas are seeing drastic cuts. Martin Clare, chef proprietor of Eclare Cuisine in London, one of the city’s top caterers, says the corporate side of his business has really dropped off. “None of banks are entertaining whatsoever.” Others are putting them off to the first of the year, says New York-based event planner Jaclyn Bernstein, owner of Empire Force events, to hold some kind of celebration. The deals are better, she says, in the more ho-hum months of January and February.
Ronnie Davis, head of Ronnie Davis Productions, the special event division of New York-based Great Performances, says he’s weathered many downturns, but that he’s been surprised by the “bunker mentality” companies have this time. Still, most are holding parties, he says, just cutting back on gift bags, floral arrangements, first courses, or hors d’oeuvres. And in a few cases, Davis says, it’s he that has to remind companies not to be too lavish right now. “I’ve been proactive in making clients aware of not doing too much conspicuous consumption.”
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