Image by Tom Godber
In 2012, Travelodge revealed that 75% of UK bosses hosted an all-expenses paid Christmas party for their employees, in comparison to only 38% in 2010 – when arguably the grip of the recession was at its tightest. Although at this stage of the year the final number of yuletide celebrations has not been revealed, all the evidence suggests that volume of Christmas office parties thrown will return to pre-recession levels in 2013.
2008-2012: A Lull in the Popularity of the Christmas Party
To varying degrees, in the last five years the popularity of Christmas office parties has experienced a massive lull, where many companies have scaled back celebrations or cancelled them all together. The recession was of course the overarching reason for this trend, however there were a number of different, albeit related, factors that contributed. Here follows a description of those factors, complete with supporting evidence that suggests a trend in transition.
Perhaps the most common reason was that many struggling companies were operating on a reduced budgets, and simply didn't have the money spare to spend on celebrating Christmas. When this happens there are some areas of a business that are going to suffer more than others. For most companies, reducing or removing the social budget completely is near the tip of the list, with the marketing budget often not too far behind.
In terms of reading market trends, the net spend on advertising in the UK recently enjoyed its biggest increase in nearly six years. This is a sure sign that many companies are starting to recover from the ill effects of the recession and the return of the social budget is hot on its heels.
Among an environment reduced budgets, redundancies and pay freezes, many companies feared that celebrating Christmas with a party was improper given the circumstances. Even those businesses that weren't suffering with the ill effects of the recession and could still afford to were often reticent to do so, for the fear that they would be perceived as being insensitive, or even worse, indifferent to the plight of others.
That outlook, though, is beginning to shift. The fact that the UK's financial sector is beginning to once again spend significantly on 'behind the scenes' celebrations at some of London's finest restaurants is perhaps the biggest indication. Although festivities will not hit the lavish heights of 2006, the fact an industry lambasted from so many quarters for helping to cause the recession is confident of celebrating Christmas once again, should be viewed as reflective of a wider trend within UK businesses.
The Return of Businesses' Social Budget
Evolve Events, an events planning company, have very recently released reports to substantiate this claim with Christmas party bookings increasing by 12% on figures which has already significantly improved in 2012. The figures were collated in October based on bookings that had been confirmed at the time for the 2013/14 season.
Interestingly, the 2014 part of the research may point to a supporting reason for the return of the office Christmas party this year. For a number of reasons, including the fact that venue hire is typically a lot less in January, holding a Christmas Party in the first month of the year is a lot cheaper. The fact that January bookings are up 8% on the same period last year suggests that bosses are becoming more savvy to cost-cutting possibilities related to Christmas party organisation.
2013 Christmas Party Venues are investing in Improvements
The evidence is clear; the Christmas party season for UK businesses is once again in full-swing after laying dormant for a number of years. As such, bosses will once again be able to enjoy the motivating properties of such parties and workforces will enjoy the opportunity to de-stress after twelve months of hard work. Yet for many, the conundrum of choosing a suitable Christmas party venues remains.
Faced with the opportunity to appeal to a wider customer base, venues that specialise in hosting events are investing. Eventia, the Industry trade association, recently announced that 25% of UK venues are planning capital investment of at least one hundred thousand pounds in 2013. It's safe to say that venues would not be committing to these levels of financial undertaking if the events industry was not in the midst of enjoying an upward curve. The benefit for those booking Christmas parties is that they will be able to enjoy unprecedented levels of choice, as increasingly venues turn to providing better services in order to stand out in a more competitive market.
Is the company that you are working for throwing a Christmas party for the first time in years? Are you a boss putting on yuletide spread after a significant break? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.