UK: Party fever is surviving in the face of recession.

UK: Party fever is surviving in the face of recession. - As the threat of global recession hangs heavily over the economy and the season of festivity approaches, how is British industry responding?

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As the threat of global recession hangs heavily over the economy and the season of festivity approaches, how is British industry responding?

Will that most conspicuous of corporate frivolities - the staff Christmas party - fall victim to the corporate cost-cutters?

'There's no evidence of cuts as far as we can see,' says Ian Fraser, general manager of banqueting and catering at the Natural History Museum.

'We have two venues and both are fully booked for the whole of December and for the last two weeks of November.'

'Things are very busy and all the good venues are fully booked,' confirms a spokeswoman for party organiser Moving Venue. 'There have been rumours that parties may be cancelled but we don't see any evidence of that.' While spends per head vary, she says most clients are spending right up to the tax threshold of £75 a head and many are paying substantially more.

Many companies see parties as a cost-effective staff benefit. 'Our clients treat it like the advertising budget,' says Matthew Watt, managing director of Edinburgh-based Bedlam Corporate Entertainment.

'They realise the average Christmas party, costing say £50 a head is an incredibly cheap way of motivating staff.'

Even in beleaguered sectors such as engineering, there are few hints of a downturn in entertainment. Car manufacturer Toyota says it's business as usual. 'Each team gets a monthly budget to socialise out of work and this has gone up with inflation as usual,' says a spokeswoman. 'The annual Christmas lunch in the canteen is still on and everyone will be getting their normal small gift from the company.' Nor is the drive to party limited geographically. Although Scotland's economy has been hammered by the withdrawal of foreign investment, Bedlam's books have never been busier, says Watt.

Not all organisers are so optimistic, however. There may be trouble on the horizon, says Shirley Ruetimann, managing director of corporate entertainer Events a la Carte. While most clients are spending £100 a head - 10-15% more than last year - and those hosting parties at Christmas or in the spring show no signs of reining in, she questions whether most are simply cheering their staff up now and holding off worrying about saving money until next year.

Ruetimann's note of caution is echoed by Tim Cramp, sales and marketing director of catering specialist, Party Ingredients. He warns that the current high levels of spend could be misleading: 'There's no obvious sign of people holding back,' he says. 'But that may be because most Christmas parties are booked almost a year ahead. In September, we had our first cancellation and, as we get to the line, it may be that budgets are quietly trimmed.'.

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