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Holiday Parties at Lowest Level in 20 Years

Posted by: Jena McGregor on November 5, 2008


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.”

Reader Comments

Francine Rattenbury

November 17, 2008 6:52 PM

In the hotel sales business we are seeing a cut back in the amount and scale of office parties. We are told it is a budget issue in almost all cases.

DJ Lou Nader

March 3, 2009 5:10 PM

I am, Lou Nader, one of the partners with the Star Entertainment Group and last December 2008 was our record low for Holiday Parties!
One of the factors, was that most companies were laying off workers so that meant no "Holiday Party" at all.
Another factor was that companies were just not in the position to spend $500-800.00 on a "Holiday Party."
I believe that every company needs to have a "Holiday Party" to say "Thanks!" to their employee's for doing a Great Job all year long.
My advise for all corporations big and small start the budget for the "Holiday Party" in January so that by December enough funds are allocated to have the party and no excuses can be made to cancel the "Holiday Party."
Let's Party on in 2009!!!
Lou Nader
Star Entertainment group

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